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Understanding Movements in Modern Thought

Series Editor: Jack Reynolds

This series provides short, accessible and lively introductions to the

major schools, movements and traditions in philosophy and the history
of ideas since the beginning of the Enlightenment. All books in the
series are written for undergraduates meeting the subject for the :first

understanding postcolonialism

Understanding Empiricism Understanding Postcolonialism Jane Hiddleston

Robert G. Meyers Jane Hiddleston
Understanding Existentialism Understanding Poststructuralism
Jack Reynolds James Williams
Understanding German Idealism Understanding Psychoanalysis
Will Dudley Matthew Sharpe & Joanne Faulkner
Understanding Hegelianism Understanding Rationalism
Robert Sinnerbrink Charlie Heunemann
Understanding Hermeneutics Understanding Utilitarianism
Lawrence Schmidt Tim Mulgan
Understanding Naturalism Understanding Virtue Ethics
Jack Ritchie Stan van Hooft
Understanding Phenomenology
David R. Cerbone

Forthcoming titles include

Understanding Feminism Understanding Pragmatism

Peta Bowden & Jane Mummery Axel Mueller
Understanding Environmental
Andrew Brennan & Y. S. Lo


Acknowledgements vi
1 Introduction 1
Jane Hiddleston, 2009 2 Fanon and Sartre: colonial Manichaeism and the call
to arms 25
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission. 3 Decolonization, community, nationalism: Gandhi,
All rights reserved. Nandy and the Subaltern Studies Collective 54
4 Foucault and Said: colonial discourse and Orientalism 76
First published in 2009 by Acumen
5 Derrida and Bhabha: sel other and postcolonial ethics 98
Acumen Publishing Limited 6 Khatibi and Glissant: postcolonial ethics and the return
Stocks:field Hall
to place 126
NE437TN 7 Ethics with politics? Spivak, Mudimbe, Mbembe 151 8 Conclusion: neocolonialism and the future of the discipline 178

ISBN: 978-1-84465-160-3 (hardback) Questions for discussion and revision 186

ISBN: 978-1-84465-161-0 (paperback) Guide to further reading 189
Bibliography 193
British Library Catalogning-in-Publication Data Index 199
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Typeset in Minion Pro.

Printed and bound in the UK by Athenaeum Press Limited.

contents v

Acknowledgements Introduction

I would like to thank the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford, Postcolonialism is a broad and constantly changing movement that has
and the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at the Univer- aroused a good deal of both interest and controversy. Inaugurated in
sity of Oxford for granting me a sabbatical during which to complete earnest during and after the fight for independence in the remaining
this project. Chapter 1 contains extracts from my article "Dialectic or British and French colonies around the 1950s and 1960s, it has devel-
Dissemination? Anti-colonial Critique in Sartre and Derrida' (Sartre oped rapidly to become today a major area of intellectual innovation
Studies International 12[1] [2006]), and Chapter 4 reuses some material and debate. While the term first became popular in North American
from my essay "Jacques Derrida' (in Postcolonial Thought in the Fran- university campuses, and in particular in literary departments, it is
cophone World, C. Forsdick & D. Murphy [eds] [Liverpool: Liverpool now widely used both inside and outside Western academic institu-
University Press, 2009]). I am grateful to the editors of both for allow- tions and attracts ever-growing numbers of commentators as well as
ing me to reprint this material. I would like to thank the series editor, students. The term "postcolonialism" can generally be understood as
Jack Reynolds, for suggesting this project in the first place, and Tristan the multiple political, economic, cultural and philosophical responses
Palmer at Acumen for his work in bringing the book to fruition. The to colonialism from its inauguration to the present day, and is some-
anonymous readers also offered invaluable advice and comments, and what broad and sprawling in scope. While "anti-colonialism" names
I am grateful to them for helping me to sharpen the final version. Kate specific movements of resistance to colonialism, postcolonialis:n
Williams has also been a scrupulous editor and has helped to produce refers to the wider, multifaceted effects and implications of colomal
a more polished text. Discussion of 'aspects of the book came up in rule. Postcolonialism frequently offers a challenge to colonialism,
seminars and meetings with a number of graduate students at Oxford, but does not constitute a single programme of resistance; indeed, it
and I benefited greatly from trying out my ideas with them. Finally, I am is considered consequently by some to be rather vague and panoptic
immensely grateful for the help and support of friends and colleagues, in its ever more ambitious field of enquiry. This book will focus on the
and above all, to Colin, for everything. philosophical dimensions of postcolonialism, and will demonstr~te
Jane Hiddleston the diversity of conceptual models and strategies used by postcolomal
Oxford philosophers rather than by political thinkers or literary write~s. Po~t
colonial philosophy will be shown to feed into these, but detailed dis-
cussion of the politics, economics and literature of postcolonialism is
beyond the scope of this study.

vi understanding postcolonialism
The term "postcolonialism" is a highly ambiguous one. In order to the effects of British rule in India, for example, or of the French pres-
understand its meanings and implications it is first necessary to define ence in Algeria, but also to the wake of the Roman Empire, or to the
the colonialism to which it evidently refers. Colonialism should be traces of the Spanish and portuguese colonization of Latin America.
conceived as the conquest and subsequent control of another country, Indeed, some critics believe that the model for current conceptions of
and involves both the subjugation of that country's native peoples and postcolonialism precisely emerges out of the earlier experiences ofinde-
the administration of its government, economy and produce. The act pendence and neo-imperialism in Latin America, and cert~y, some
of colonization is a concrete process of invasion and a practical seiz- thinking around the concepts of liberation and transculturation can ~e
ing of control, although it is important for postcolonial studies that traced back to this region. So the term could be seen to name a senes
this material, empirical manifestation of colonization is at the same of historical contexts and geographical locations that is bewildering in .
time backed up by a colonial ideology that stresses cultural supremacy: scope. In fact, however, perhaps as a result of the new understanding
Colonialism is from this point of view both a specified political and of imperialism as associated with capitalism mentioned above, post-
economic project, and a larger discourse of hegemony and superior- colonialism is more frequently conceived to describe what has resulted
ity that is enlisted to drive and support that concrete political act. The from the decline of British and French colonialism in the second half
colonial project involves the literal process of entering into a foreign of the twentieth century. Of course, many critics continue to reflect on
territory and assuming control of its society and industry, and, on a the "postcolOnial" heritage of Latin America, or, indeed, use ~e term
more conceptual level, the post facto promulgation of a cultural ideol- to discuss the impact of foreign power on Canada or Australia. It has
ogy that justifies the colonizer's presence on the basis of his superior even been suggested that the United States is postcolonial in the sense
knowledge and "civilization': that it was once a British colony, although it is clear that the conditions
"Colonialism" is close in meaning to "imperialism: although at the of this colonial project were different from those that were being ques-
same time slightly different. If colonialism involves a concrete act of tioned specifically in British and French colonies around the ~9~Os.
conquest, imperialism names a broader form of authority or dominance. Nevertheless, most critics who identify-themselves with postcolomalism
Colonialism is in this way one active manifestation of imperialist ideol- focus on the particular form of colonial ideology that was also tied to
ogy, but imperialism can also be understood as a larger structure of capitalism, and that brought about not just the conquest of peoples and
economic or political hegemony that does not have to include the direct the use of their resources, but also industrialization and the whole-
rule and conquest ofanother country. Imperialism could, then, continue sale restructuring of their economies. Postcolonial critique of British
after the end of colonial rule, .and indeed, many critics have described and French colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries also
the United States's current dominance of global markets as a new form focuses very much on the ruthlessness of their methods of e:xploit~
of imperialist rule. This conception of imperialism shows that the term tion and on the inequality and impoverishment brought about by this
is wide-ranging, but it certainly helps to conceptualize both past and particular form of oppression. . .
present forms of economic and cultural dominance. Imperialism is also So postcolonial thought is potentially geographically and ~ston~~y
now associated with capitalism, and with the attempt by Western states wide-ranging, but has been narrowed slightly by some ofthe major cntics,
to impose their Capitalist system on the rest of the world. Colonial con- who tend to concentrate on British and French capitalist forms of colo-
quest and settlement was one way in which those states accomplished nialism. The question of the precise dating of the postcolonial, however,
the spread of their capitalist ideology, but even after decolonization remains to be resolved. On this matter, thinkers have distinguished
this ideology continues to exert its pressure on the ex-colonies and the the "post-colonial" from the "postcolonial': arguing that the removal
"Third World" (and the use of this term itself stresses the subordinate of the hyphen designates a shift in meaning. It is widely agreed that
status of the countries to which it refers). "post-colonial" names a distinct historical period following th~ end of
If these are the distinctions between colonialism and imperialism, . direct colonial rule. Post-colonial Algeria, for example, descnbes the
then what do we understand specifically by the term "postcolomalism"? nation's trajectory after 1962, once decolonization was agreed ~er eight
We might assume that postcolonialism designates the aftermath of any years of bloody conflict. Post-colonialism is in this way ~ru:row ill.scope
form of colonial rule. This means it could presumably refer not only to and names a specific, identifiable moment. postcolomalism, WIth no

introduction 3
2 understanding postcolonial ism
hyphen, is larger and more problematic. For a start, it tends to refer
ance, despite its proponents' awareness of capitalism's neo-imperial
not to all that happened after the end of colonialism, but to the events
effects, postcoloniality is a looser term for a current moment o~ epoch.
that suc~eeded its beginning. So postcolonialism also names the period
of colomal rule, together with its gradual weakening and demise. For Postcoloniality is at the same time a condition rather u:an an mtell~c
this rea~o~, in his boo~ Islands and Exiles (1998), Chris Bongie sug-
tual engagement or standpoint, and this term also contams the negati~e
connotations of a generation still, perhaps unthinkingly, bound up III
gests wnting the term m the form post/colonialism, since this stresses
the politics of the hegemony of "the West" over its (~ormer) overseas
the presence of the colonial within postcolonial critique. Far from cel-
territories. Moreover, postcoloniality has been descnbed by Graham
ebrating the definitive conclusion to colonialism, then, postcolonialism
analyses its effects both in its heyday and during the period that followed Hugganas a particular condition in the market, .whereby certaintext~,
artefacts or cultural practices are celebrated preCIsely as a result of theIr
the end of the literal, concrete colonial presence. The movement is asso-
apparent "marginality" in relation to the Western canon. The irony of
ciated with the eXamination and critique of colonial power both before
and after decolonization. this process of exoticization is that only certain authors or works are
championed, and those who achieve this status do so largely because
This expansion of the historical period to which the term
postcolonialism refers means that it has come to be associated with a they fulfil Western expectations of the nature of the other culture, and
range of Situations and events. Furthermore, postcolonialism names of the form of a good work of art. Some critics hav~ argued tha~
~e ~alysis ofthe mechanics of colonial power, the economic exploita- colonialism is also guilty of this fetishization of certam aspects of .n:rrd
World" culture, but we might argue in response that postcolomalism
tion It b~ou~t wi~ it, and a form of both cultural and ethical critique
is the movement that interrogates this cynical process, whereas post-
or q~estio~g. ~t IS both a political and a broader ethical philosophy;
coloniality is the broader epoch and set of conditions in v.:-hich. such
and mdeed, It will be the contention of this book that latterly the field
has become split, often artificially; between these two distinct strands. exoticization has come to thrive. Postcoloniality is from this pOIllt of
Over~, it car: be agreed that postcolonialism names a set of politi- view internIingled with neocolonialism: that is, with lingering ideologies
of cultural patronage of the sort that originally backed up and fuelled
cal, philosophical or conceptual questions engendered by the colOnial
actual colonial powers. .
project and its aftermath. But the approach taken by critics towards
these questions varies Significantly; with one school of thought tending To return more specifically to postcolonialism, this book will stress
that this is a movement of questioning that seeks not, as critics have
to lean towards a denunciation of colonial politics and economics, and
to. c~ for ~racti~al revolution or reform, and another stressing coloni-
at times objected, to propose a single model or understanding for the
alisms ethical blindness and the cultural regeneration required in the colonial project and its aftershocks, but to analyse the nu~ce~ an~
implications of its multiple, varying manifestations. Postcolomalis:n IS
wake of that oppression. Postcolonialism does not propose one answer
equally not a coherent strategy for resistance, but it n~es the at times
to such questions - although many critics have objected that it tries to
- but offers a framework for their expansion, exploration and clarifi- self-contradictory or internally conflictual movement m thought that
exanIines, unpicks and compares multiple strategies and 'potential u:odes
cation. So although commentators point out the risks associated with
conceiving the a homogeneous label, unifying distinct experi- of critique. This book will analyse some of these varyrng stra:egres as
ences ofoppreSSIOn, It can be understood to describe a multifaceted and they were conceived by some of the major philosophers and thinkers of
open process of interrogation and critique. It is not a single structure the twentieth century; and will explore the distinct approaches that have
been reified by certain critics into a strict, and ultimately rather prob-
or a straightforward answer, but, as Ato Quayson helpfully puts it, it is
lematic, division. While for some readers postcolonialism is an ove~y
a process, a way of thinking through critical strategies. Quayson goes
so far as t.o ~~op?,se not. a ''postcolonialist'' analysis, but a "process of
political movement, concerned above all with the e~pirical, mater.Ial
postcolomalizmg, or an mtellectual engagement with the evolving links effects of colonialism and its aftermath, for others this field of enqUIrY
between the colonial period and current or modern-day inequalities. heralds an ethical reflection concerning, rather more broadly, relations
Po~tc.olOnialism is additionally, in this sense, different from post- between self and other. Postcolonial thought is, on the one hand, seen
colomality. Ifpostcolonialism involves some form of critique and resist- to interrogate the underlying political structure~ of colo.nialism, and ~e
mechanics of its promulgation an,d subsequent dismantling. Postcolomal
4 understanding Postcolonialism
introduction 5
understanding of the postcolonial arena will necessitate an engagement
critique goes on to enquire after the structure and efficacy of particular
forms of nationalism as they emerged at the time when colonial ideology with both levels.
falt~red and declined. On the other hand, however, an apparentlyalter-
native strand to this movement in modem thought forces us to rethink
our understanding of the deeper relations between peoples, cultures or Marxism and ideology
communities, and the ethical encounter interrupted by colonialism but
Marx refers directly to colonialism somewhat sporadically through-
crucial to its denunciation. A major part ofpostcolonial critique concen-
out his work, and many of his comments on this subject appear rather
trates on the militant condemnation of a pernicious political ideology,
ambivalent. There can be no doubt, however, that he condemns the sub-
jugation and economic exploitation of the under~lass that the .colonial
but another aspect uses that condemnation to challenge and extend our
system demands. Marx's most developed observations concemmg c.o~o
understanding of how to contemplate the other.
The two strands of postcolonialism draw, respectively, on Marxism
nialism are focused on India and on the inequality enforced by Bntish
and Levinasian ethics. These influences are evidently combined with
colonial rule in that context. He notes in numerous journalistic essays,
oth~~s and used in different ways, but some understanding of Marxist
and in parts of Capital, the misery and poverty suffered by the,
politics and Levinasian ethics offers insight into two of the dominant
the cruelty of the:ir exploitation and the destructive effects of the Bntish
currents in postcolonial philosophy. Marx commented explicitly on
restructuring of the economy. Marx notes that the British. effectively
colonial ideology in a number of essays, although it is above all his cri-
broke down the founding framework ofIndian society by taking control
of the means of production and imposing British capitalis~ principle~.
tique of capitalist e:xploitation and his call for revolt that inspired later
postcolo~al thinker~. Emmanuel Levinas does not engage openlywith
As a result of the British presence, Indian agriculture deterIorated as It
the question of colomal power, but his reinvention ofthe ethical relation
struggled to conform to these principles of free co~petition, laissez-
in the ~ake ?f National Socialism is undeniably at the heart of many
faire and laisse:z-aller. Furthermore, British forms of mdustry destroyed
later discussIOns of postcolonial alterity. The rest of this introduction
local technologies - the handloom and the spinning wheel, for example
will sketch the relevant parts of Marx and Levinas, and establish the
_ in order to impose a larger-scale manufacturing industry, with the
philosophical bases on which much subsequent postcolonial thought is
result that the colonial system entirely recreated the means of the pro-
co?structed. Nevertheless, in noting that many secondary postcolonial
duction of cotton in the "mother country of cottons". Smaller farms,
cntics appear to choose between politics and ethics in their reflections
local businesses and family communities were dissolved because they
on the works of the major philosophers, much of this book will con-
were based on a domestic form of industry - on hand weaving and till-
side:- the ~agility of the frontier between these apparently distinct poles.
ing, for example - and the natives as a result no longer ran or managed
Levmas ~self o.ff~rs an equivocal response to Marx, arguing both that their own resources. Not only was economic control passed over to
the. latter s m~tenalist confrontation of the bourgeoisie and the prole-
the British, but local communities were dissolved and fragmented by
tanat casts aSIde the possibility of absolute freedom, and that he never-
the installation of this foreign form of industry. In addition, the higher
theless did universalize French revolutionary ideals by championing
employees of the British East India Company instituted a monopoly on
fr~edom of consciousness. Much more broadly, moreover, postcolonial
the tea trade, fixing prices and taking profits away from local workers.
th~ers of each c~p a~ times borrow from the other, and leading
In analysing such instances of restructuring and exploitation, ~arx an~
Engels both denounce the economic drive conceived as the maJo~ baSIS
cntics. such as Gayatri SpIvak. constantly and deliberately dart between
them m the effort to stress their reciprocal uses. Materialist commen-
for colonial power: "colonialism proclaimed surplus-value making as
tat~rs such :s Aijaz.~ad, Neil Lazarus and Benita Parry may battle
the sole end and aim of humanity" (Marx & Engels 1960: 261).
agamst the textualist' approach of a critic such as Robert Young, but I Despite these condemnations of the inequality and exploita~on
most of the leading philosophers address both the politics of colonial I. brought about by the British in India, Marx's position on c?lomal-
. oppression and its underlying, unethical representational structures.
ism nevertheless at times seems contradictory. First, in argumg that
Certainly, the overt goals of political and ethical postcolonialism will
the British colonizers did make an economic profit out of the colonial
be found to be quite clearly distinct from one another, yet a genuine
I.' introduction 7
6 understanding postc%nialism \

project, he succeeds in both condemning the exploitation associated as a nationalist revolution. They vilify the scope of capitalist ambition,
with this profit and stressing the success of an economic venture that its spread beyond Western nations and drive to rule the econo~es of
anti-colonialists at the time wanted to deny. As Young points out in Post- the world. It is a holistic ideology that demands not only the reIgn of
colonialism (2001), Marx goes on to contradict himself on this question surplus-value making in Europe, but at the same time the ~erivation
of F~ofit, as he mentions how the East India Company was stretching of further surplus-value using the resources of other countries, of ~o~
Bntish finances to the point of potential ruin, but for the most part he onies. Capitalism for Marx and Engels is also pernicious because It IS
underlines the impact of colonialism in the capitalist drive for finan- propped up by a rhetoric of civilization, and claims to b~ng moral as
cial g~. Furthermore, if Marx denounces the moral failings of British well as economic benefits to foreign territories. They angrily denounce
colomalism, and laments the suffering of the native population, he does the way in which capitalism:
also note that the British succeeded in imposing some unity on a people
that had been disastrously fractured up until that point. He recalls that compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bour-
India had previously relied on hereditary divisions of labour, solidified geois mode of production; it compels them to introduce wh~t
it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeOIS
by the caste system, and these impeded the progress and development
of Indian power and industry. The modern industrial system imposed themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own
(1967: 84)
by the British, together with the construction of a railway system, in image.
fact to a certain extent helped to transcend eXisting petty hierarchies. So
Marx is virulently against colonial exploitation, but does not condemn Nevertheless, if capitalism also brings with it this drive towards col-
onization and the imposition of what it conceives to be its mission
every aspect of the colonial project.
Marx is also above all interested less in independence than in the civilisatrice, its overthrow in the colonies should not necessarily be
revolt of the working classes against the bourgeoisie. In order for the nationalist. Marx and Engels propose, in the wake of the weakening
Indian working class to achieve such a revolt, and then to reap the of distinctions between nations as a result of the development of the
benefits of British industrialization, Marx argues that the Britishbour- bourgeoisie, that revolution will be achieved through the unification of
ge~isie would first need to be supplanted by a strong industrial prole-
the working classes beyond national differences. They argue that 0 :-k -
tanat capable of undermining the bourgeois control of the means of ing men have to seize hold of their own nation, they have ~o pOSIti.O~
themselves as the leading class of the nation in order to achieve politi-
production. The first revolution had to happen back home, then, and
the colonized might be able to follow suit if the British working class cal supremacy, but once this supremacy has been instated, Marx ~d
had created a model for them to follow. The Indian proletariat needed Engels look forward to a utopian world where divisions and conflicts
to learn from the British proletariat before achieving the conditions between nations fade.
Marx's views on nationalism and anti-colonial revolt alter later in
necessary for their emancipation. At the same time, the colonial and
his career, however, and it is difficult to pin down and reify his atti-
imperialist projects were preventing the socialist revolution in Britain
from taking place, so the danger was that the combined force of colo- tudes to these phenomena. Again, as Young points out, Marx goes o?- to
schematize the relationship between colonizing and oppressed nations
nialism and capitalism mutually strengthened each system, disabling
according to the same model used for the bourgeoisie and the control
revolt both at home and abroad. Colonialism is an ideology thrown into
q~estion n: ~arx's work, then, but anti-colonial critique is by no means
of the proletariat, and this suggests that the colonized nation should
now pull together and unify its forces in order to achie~e its emancip~
his first .pnonty. He continues to believe that Indian society might have
tion. Taking into account Marx's vacillation on nationalism, however, ~t
something to learn from Britain, and indeed, that an anti-colonial revolt
remains clear that his broader thoughts on the structures of econOmIC
should not take place at any cost, and without a properly constructed
exploitation and on the nature of a workers' revolt can tell us some-
political framework to support it.
thing about the capitalist drive behind colonialism. Ambivalent about
In The Communist Manifesto (1967), Marx and Engels again at once
colonialism's potential benefits, Marx also does not offer a straight-
denounce the capitalist exploitation of colonized countries and remain
forward anti-colonial critique, and focuses more on the effects of the
hazy on the nature, and appropriate moment, for something as specific

introduction 9
8 understanding postcolonialism
bourgeois control of the means ofproduction than on colonial violence.
m. s
iden~cation of capitalisnls broad sweep and underlying colonial some contradiction in his use of notions of truth and falsity, because the
"falSity" ofideas paradoxically comes to describe the "truth" of the s~cial
drive proVl~es, howeve~, a significant context for any understanding of
the mechanics of colomal economic control. order. Ideology also seems integral to social life and at the same tlille
dissociated from it. Furthermore, it has been observed that the assumed
In, addition to the practical discussion of economic exploitation,
~arxs work ~t the ~ame time offers a foundation for a conception of association between the ruling class and ruling ideology suggests a tight
system of control, when ideology could be seen to fun~on in a broade:,
Ideology that IS cruCIal for the spread and institutionalization of colonial
more free-floating manner. Similarly, critics have noticed that Marx s
power. In .The G:er:n an Ideology (1964), Marx and Engels distinguish
theory of ideology implies that ideology is somewhat homogeneo~s,
the matenal activity of men and their empirical political and social
although thinkers such as Stuart Hall have stressed .that Mru:x does m
relations from the larger ideological superstructure. Marx's discus-
sio~ o~ ideology opens with the observation that the functioning of the fact allow for ideology to vary in fonn. Market relations can mdeed be
conceived in more multifarious ways than perhaps at :first appears. At
ca~It~st syste~ starts with actual individuals, who are productively
the same time, further dissenters have noted that in Marx's theory, those
a~e m a .definite way, entering into a series of definite political and
so~al relations. relations are then seen to direct the production who are swayed by the ruling ideology are conceived unfairly as blind
of ldeas, of conceptions and of a broader consciousness that remains to its falsity and distortion. Once again, however, we r:rnght r~spond
that Marx's members of the proletariat are not necessarily paSSIve and
tightly interwoven with material and empirical conditions and actions.
ignorant, but rather that his understanding of ideology impli~ that
Nevertheless, Marx's theory of the diviSion of labour and the control
parts of the capitalist process either escape the~ un~erstanding, ~r
of the means of production by the bourgeoisie means that the worker
make little sense to them as individuals. What this notion of a dOmI-
co~es to find ~self alienated from the ideas that drive and shape his
nant consciousness and a ruling set of ideas suggests, moreover, is that
eXIstence: Obliged to work for the broader community or the state, the
the capitalist system imposes itself both practically and insidiously, ~y
worker directs his energies into this larger communal life, which is at
odds with his own self-interest. The proletariat work in the service of propagating ideas that justify that initi~ pr.actical s~cture. Conc.omI-
tantly, the workers' struggle against capItalism requrres a fo~ of ~d~o
the ruling class, who produce the ruling ideas, and these are in turn
logical transformation: a change in leading values as well as a selZ1llg
divorced from the worker's perception of his personal needs and aims.
of economic control.
For Marx, the class that retains control of the means ofproduction also
~o~trols the community's mental production: "the ruling class presents If Marx's theory of ideology has been criticized for its rigidity, then
its mterest as a common interest to all members of society" (Marx & Antonio Gramsci is one thinker who helps to add nuance to his under-
standing of the mechanics of class domina~on. Gr~sci troubles the
Engels 1964: 60). This common interest can be seen as a dOminant ideol-
temptation in reading Marx to conceive the IdeolOgIcal sup~rstructure
ogy that has become detached from the individual's view ofhis material
co~di~ons; it is an illusion or chimera that nevertheless props up the as tightly knitted to the economic substru~e, and s~esses mstea~ the
complexity of social formations. GramSCIS approach IS not exclUSIvely
capItalist system. Building on Marx, Engels goes so far as to conceive
ideology as false consciousness; it is the illusory gamut of ideas and economic, and his writing analyses together economic conditio~s and
do~s tha~ support and justify the structure of economic exploitation the knotted structure of political and ideological relations that serve to
form the social fabric. Furthermore, Gramsci uses the conc5!pt ofl;legem-
and mequality. As Terry Eagleton writes in Ideology (1991), however,
ony to think through structures of domination, .rather than stickin~ to
Ma:x's later rew~rkings of this notion of ideology move away from the
the notion of a fixed correlation between one ruling class and the ruling
notion of a false Ideology and towards a conception of the duplicity of
actual lived relations. ideology. A hegemOnic formation is not necessarily a pe~anent ~e,
but names the different strategies employed by any ruling class to WIll
Marx's theory of ideology can be used to reveal the illusions and
suppositions promulgated in favour of colOnial imposition and dOmina- its position of dominance. Hegemony is distinct from coer.cion, since it
relies on a changeable form of moral and cultural leadership or author-
tion. It is not, however, without its inconsistencies. Eagleton's discussion
ity that comes to determine the structure of a given society, rather n:an
of the evolution of ideology in Marx's work points out that there is
on the use of force. Hegemony names the ways in which the governmg
10 understanding Postcolonialism
introduction 11

power wins the consent ofthose it governs. Like Marx's concept ofideol- The final theorist of ideology worth introducing here is Louis Althus-
ogy, then, Gramsci's concept ofhegemony describes the spread of a sort ser, who refines and expands on both Marx and Gramsci. Althusser
of ~ultural and political status quo that props up the leadership of the develops Marx's understanding of the relation between base and super-
ruling class and the bourgeois mentality that goes with it. For Gramsci, structure by specifying the actual mechanics of ideological domination.
however, unlike for Marx, the relation between base economic struc- He reads Marx's work in detail, but points out the theoretical gap in
tures and the hegemonic class is wide-ranging and diffuse, and is bound Marx's analysis of the question of how the ideological superstructure
up with culture and the spread of values as well as with exploitation. works itself into actual economic relations and conditions. In order
Hegemony also names lived social relations rather than just false ideas or to address this lack in Marx, Althusser does not use Gramsci's theory
illusions. Finally, hegemony is for Gramsci necessarily a site of struggle, of hegemony and cultural supremacy, since he conceives the latter's
as plural subjects under the sway of hegemony nevertheless assert their desire to amalgamate economic infrastructure, exploitation, class strug-
multifarious and contradictory forms of social consciousness. This form gle, the law and the state under the unifying umbrella of "hegemony"
of struggle is more important for Gramsci than simply a straightforward, as astonishingly idealistic. Rather, Althusser looks at the State as a
economistic seizing of control of the means of production. "machine" with a set of apparatuses ensuring the continued domina-
In addition to opening out Marx's theory ofideology to stress the role tion of the ruling, bourgeois class. The State is made up of the repres-
of culture and morality in the subjugated subject's strategy for revolt, sive apparatuses, such as the army and the police, by which it exerts its
Gramsd's political writing more specifically on the peasantry offers a force, and these are combined with political apparatuses, including the
model of contestation that could also be usefully anti-colonial. Inter- head of state, the government, and the body of the administration. Most
spersed wi~ his comments on the subjugation of the Italian peasantry famously, Althusser asserts that the ideology of the ruling class is pro.m-
are observations on the injustice of colonial exploitation and the neces- ulgated via a plurality of ideological apparatuses, such as .th~ e~ucation
sity for the explOited class to come together, united by shared ideas. Like system. These ideolOgical state apparatuses are the most mSIdious, and
Marx, Gramsci condemns the capitalist drive behind colonialism, but include major institutions such as schools and colleges, the church, the
then g~es on to emphasize the importance of the education of working legal system, communications, and smaller sites of diffusion such as
men, smce a better understanding of their situation would help them the family and the cultural expectations accompanying it. The role of
to organize a coherent position of revolt. Resistance would be achieved these apparatuses is to ensure the reproduction of the labour power, so
through the creation of a powerful and fully realized self-consciousness. that workers continue to submit to the ruling ideology and the agents
This conception of the role of culture both in the propagation of hegem- of exploitation and repression continue to manipulate that ideology.
ony and in the service of its overthrow is additionally pertinent in the The ideology produced by these apparatuses denies the existence of
coloni~ co.nte~ since the colonial project of course relies not only economic exploitation and struggle, and recommends the virtues of
on the mstitution of a capitalist form of exploitation, but also on the public service. It is also, importantly, a distortion that acts to re.shape
spread of a belief in white racial supremacy. Furthermore, Hall points individuals' perception of their relation to the means of produc~on. It
out th~t the discussion of the culturally specific quality of hegemonic is not bound up with falsity, as in Marx and Engels, and does not lillply
formations enables us to think through the particular determinants of that certain conditions are illusory, but describes rather the im~oinary
col~nial dominance and allows a flexible understanding of the ways in relation of individuals to their actual conditions of existence. Most
which class and race feed into one another. Most famously, Gramsd's importantly, Althusser's analysiS is innovative in that it pinpoints. the
concept of the subaltern - which names a subjugated social category material manifestation of this ideology, since this is no longer conceIved
not restricted to the notion of class - has been used by Marxist Indian merely as a series of ideas or a ruling consciousness but as a concrete set
theorists such as Ranajit Guha and, more loosely, Spivak to examine the of mechanics. Ideology, as well as exploitation, gains force and credence
insurgency of the Indian peasantry, as well as its oppression. The signifi- by means of particular institutions or apparatuses, all of which serve
cance of this thinking lies above all in its conception of a decisive politi- and concretize the bourgeois aims of the State.
cal agency claiming a voice ofits own. The subaltern is a resistant being Althusser's notion of ideology also alters our understanding of the
rather than merely a passive object of oppression and exploitation. construction of the subject. It is ideology that makes us subjects; it

introduction 13
12 understanding postcolonialism
with knowledge, and Edward Said in turn builds on Foucault to show
"interpellates" individuals, which means it addresses them, and con-
how colonial power is propped up by the production and diffusion of
structs them as subjects of the State. We are always born into the ideo-
certain images of the Orient. Critics and commentators on ~ these
logical system, then,and know oUrselves only as formed by that system.
theorists, such as Aijaz Ahmad and ArifDirlik, go on to use theIr read-
Althus~er ~aws on Jacques Lacan here, and suggests that the subject
ings self-consciously and assertively to inscribe ~~sm ~t the centre
recogruzes itself by means of an imaginary or deluded vision that is
of postcolonial theory. San Juan summarizes his disCUSSiOn of post-
promulgated by ideology. Most importantly, though, Althusser's think-
colonialism with the proposition that "capitalism as a world system
~g .is .use~ here in that it uncovers the vast ideological mirage that the
has developed unevenly, with the operations of the 'free market' being
mdiVldualls born into, and that forms each individual as a social sub-
determined by the unplanned but (after analysis) 1awful' tendencies of
ject. Ide~logy actually serves in the construction of subjectivity, rather
the accumulation of surplus value" (1998: 5). And Lazarus goes so far
than acting only on a ready-formed consciousness. Once again, this
as to argue that the Marxist understanding of capitalism is "the founda-
conception of the constitution of the subject by ideology could be seen
tional category for any credible theory of modern society" .(199~: 16).
to ~orm no~ons of the colonized as actively formed by colonialism: by
In this way, many of the more politically oriented postcolOnIal ~ers
notions ofwhite supremacy that serve to govern the entire social system,
can be seen to rely on concepts thatcan be traced back to the philo so-
and that are promulgated by the State and its attendant institutions.
Postcolonial critic E. San Juan Jr notes that Althusser's conception of the phyofMarx.
determined, interpellated subject risks ruling out autonomous agency,
but nevertheless stresses the importance of Althusser's theory of ideol-
ogy for an understanding of capitalist colonialism. Althusser's use of Levinasian ethics
the n?tion of a. La~ian alienated subjectivity will later be taken up by
Levinas never directly confronts the question of colonialism and its
~OIDl Bhabha ill his specific discussion of the splitting of the colonized
aftermath, but his work is at every point an expression of his revulsion
ill the face of what will by this time be called colonial discourse.
for National Socialism, its totalitarianism and imperialism over the
. ~Marx ~self comments sporadically and even erratically on colo-
marginalized, the oppressed, the other. Colonialism consti~tes a quite
nIalism, this book will show how his relevance to current postcolonial
different form of totalitarianism from that enforced by NaZI Germany
debates also exceeds the scope, and indeed the aniliivalence, of these
and its violence and exploitation are conceived to different ends, but it is
direct references. His critique not only of colonialism, but of econOlnic
significant that, increasingly, thinkers such a~ ~~ Ce.saire have dra~
explOitation, informs many more recent denunciations of colonialism
parallels between them. And indeed, colonIalism~ failure to conc~Ive
and capitalism. Major revolutionary thinkers such as Frantz Fanon and
otherness ethically is related conceptually to the Vlolence that Levmas
Jean-Paul Sartre derive their understanding of revolt from Marx's call to
condemns throughout his philosophical career. Otherwise than Being,
the ~roletariat to stand together and seize control of the means of pro-
first published in 1974, is dedicated to the six million ~~s of the
d~ction. An~-colonial critique is not concerned in such contexts just
death camps, and references to Hitlerism, both overt and Iffiplied, recur
~th the relation between colonizer and colonized, but with the oppres-
across the corpus. The early essay "Reflections on the Philosophy of
SIon of the masses by the bourgeoisie, and this must be overturned by
Hitlerism" explores the association between monotheism and abso~ute
the destruction of both political and economic subjugation. In add-
freedom, together with the link between paganism and fate, and Levmas
ition, theories of decolonization and nationalism in India use a Marxist
condemns the society that cannot accept the freedom of man and that
un~erstanding of the domination of the peasantry by the bourgeoisie,
falls back on a dangerous and reductive biological determinism. This
while also offering a critique of nationalist unity in the preparation of
that struggle. ~ore broadly, the concept of ideology as developed by is a society where:
Marx, GramsCl and Althusser feeds into postcolonial denunciations of
man no longer finds himself confronted with a world of ideas
colonial power as propped up by a system of false images and mirages.
in which he can choose his own truth on the basis of a sover-
~chel F~~cault's exploration of discourse, although rejecting the term
eign decision made by his free reason. He is already linked to
Ideology, draws on Marxism in stressing the interweaving of power
introduction 15
14 understanding postcolonialism
a certain number of these ideas, just as he is linked by birth to relation with the other by means of a third term, but this is incorporated
all those who are of his blood. (Levinas 1990b: 70) into the self rather than maintained as distinct and external. As a result,
and even worse, the conceptualization of Being suppresses or possesses
Levinas also argues here that the danger of this philosophy is that it the other and privileges the "I can': the autocracy of the "I". In a series of
has to be universal, since if it were freely chosen it would contradict rapid moves, Levinas then connects the philosophy of ontology with the
the determinism it upholds, the belief that individuals are necessar- philosophy of power, which in turn feeds into the tyranny of the State.
ily rooted in and circumscribed by their communities. It is from this In Heidegger, Levinas again traces this back to a belief in rootedness in
insistence on the universal applicability of a form of ethnic determinism the soil, to paganism and a devotion to the "master': This philosophy
that National Socialism derives its at once colonial and exterminatory also places the freedom of the selfbefore justice towards the other, and
logic. fails to call into question injustice. Astonishingly swiftly, Levinas has
More generally, however, Levinas's work can be seen to be pertinent moved from a critique of ontology to a denunciation of tyranny and
for postcolonial philosophy because he writes against any conception of of the association between state politics and war. The error of Western
subjectivity as totalized, masterful and dominant over the other. Levinas's metaphysics is its reliance on ontology, and war and injustice are pre-
major works seek to condemn not so much the vocabulary of race as sented as direct consequences of this concentration on the freedom of
the related notions of the "totality': "sovereignty" and "imperialism" of Being to the detriment of an ethical relation with the other.
the self Totality and Infinity opens with a reference to "the permanent What ontology obscures, according to Levinas, is not an other that
possibility of war~ and goes on to assert that "the visage of being that can be incorporated into the self, but the absolute Other. This Other has
shows itself in war is fixed in the concept of totality, which dominates no communality with the I, but is a Stranger and is wholly external to
Western philosophy" (Levinas 1969: 21). War is the inevitable result of Totality or to the Same. Against Totality, this Other inaugurates the idea
the attempt to conceive the self as entirely whole, self-contained and of Infinity, an excess that is wholly resistant to knowledge or assimila-
self-sufficient, since such a conception inevitably leads to oppression or tion and that needs to be respected for its impenetrability. The infinite
exclusion. The notion of "totality" alludes both to the totalitarianism of cannot be an object or thing; it is an unending exteriority that can never
National Socialism or of any imperialism, and to Western knowledge be known, encompassed or circumscribed. Here again, Levinas creates
itself, according to which the individual conceives himself as a totality a conglomeration of terms (Infinity, the Other, exteriority, transcend-
and subordinates everything that is exterior to himself ence' alterity) that offset and undermine the mastery and imperialism of
The startling opening of Totality and Infinity, and its stark opposi- totality. Furthermore, the way in which the Infinity of the Other presents
tion between war and morality, develops into an extended critique of itself to the self is by means of the face, an ambiguous term in Levinas's
Western metaphysics and ontology, in particular its suppression and writing that designates both the expressiveness of the human face and
occlusion of the other. Levinas's critique of ontology will also through- something that cannot be seen: the face "at each moment destroys and
out be subtended by his desire to ward off the threat of totalitarianism overflows the plastic image it leaves me, the idea existing to my own
or the subjugation or expulsion of alterity that might also be described measure and to the measure of its ideatum - the adequate idea" (Levinas
as colonial. Levinas's main objective in the initial chapters of the work 1969: 51). The face both names the features of another individual, and
consists in criticizing the ways in which Western thought has conceived serves as a figure for the Other that the self cannot assimilate, know
the self, or Being, as totalized and self-same: it either excludes or assimi- and understand. An awareness or acceptance of this overflow or excess
lates otherness. A series of terms, including Totality, Being, the Same, at the moment of encounter is, for Levinas, the definition of ethics: it
the subject, are all undermined by Levinas as a result of their tendency does not tell us how to be or act, but describes the fundamentally ethical
to subordinate what lies beyond their totalized confines. In denounCing nature of human encounter. The ethical conversation with the Other
Heidegger, via Socrates and Berkeley, for example, Levinas laments that means not assimilating its expression but receiving it in the knowledge
in ontology the freedom of Being is priOritized before the relation with that it exceeds and surpasses the idea that the self creates of it. Impor-
the other; indeed, freedom means "the mode of remaining the same tantly, in this ethical relation with the Other, the freedom of the self is
in the midst of the other" (Levinas 1969: 45). The "1" accomplishes a not the first priority but is overtaken and surpassed by the demands of

16 understanding postcolonialism introduction 17

the relation. Subjectivity is secondary to the encounter with the infin- In Otherwise than Being, Levinas develops this analysis using another
ite, which itself occurs in the immediacy of the face-to-face meeting. set of terms. Discourse is divided between two coexisting facets, the
Importantly, however, even though Levinas's work at times appears to Saying and the Said. The Saying deSignates what in language overspills
rest on a rather schematic pairing, Infinity is in reality not the opposite the confines of Being and signals the simultaneous proximity and intrac-
of Totality, and is not entirely separated from it. Totality and Infinity tability of alterity. The Saying is the excess oflanguage, its openness and
are not conceived as a binary opposition, but a pairing to be thought resistance to a single and restricted set of meanings. The Said, on the
alongside one another. As Howard Caygill writes, "what is 'otherwise' other hand, is the expression of an essence, a theme or content; it names
than totality is understood more often in terms of what is immanent to the movement oflanguage towards the identification and containment
it, what qualifies, checks, displaces or otherwise postpones its opera- of its referent. Levinas argues that Western philosophy has traditionally
tions" (2002: 95). Absolute Totality does not exist, but finds itself sup- been preoccupied with the Said, since it produces arguments, hypoth-
plemented, invaded and permeated by that which it seeks to exclude eses and propositions that aspire to a status of certainty and truth. In
and master. Understanding this permeation and interpenetration is the privileging the Said, however, philosophy has chosen to ignore the
ethical demand made by the encounter with the Other's face. omnipresent excess of the Saying. Once again, these are not opposites
Having stressed the intractability, which means the difficulty, of or alternatives to one another, but the Saying constantly expands the
mastering or controlling the expression of the Other in conversation, potentially reductive and oppressive boundaries of the Said: "the Saying
Levinas develops in the rest of Totality and Infinity, and in Otherwise is both an affirmation and a retraction of the Said" (Levinas 1981: 44).
than Being, his understanding of the role of language in establishing The Saying moves towards the Said, but in becoming absorbed into it
the ethical relation. Discourse, for Levinas, is the site of relationality; strains against its limits and opens it to otherness and the beyond.. The
it is not the direct representation and communication of a thought or Said creates essence and truth, but the Saying exposes that essence to
int"uition, but "an original relation with exterior being" (1969: 66). In alterity and establishes language as the interface of the ethical relation.
speaking to the Other, the "I" cannot know this Other or put him in a The relation between the two terms in Levinas's writing is constantly
category, but must apprehend him in all his heterogeneity. This is not unsettling and at times apparently paradoxical The one exceeds the
to say that all discourse succeeds in establishing this relation, since other, but the Saying also relies-on the Said and is only manifested
rhetoric for Levinas is a form oflanguage that denies freedom in seek- through its apparently secure statements. As in Totality and Infinity,
ing to persuade. In its expressive function, however, language precisely the opposition is less a distinct dichotomy than a coupling, whereby the
both maintains and allows the revelation of the Other. It does not rep- ethical insistence on Infinity; or the Saying, is conceived alongside the
resent something already constituted and known, but creates sharing apparent security ofTotality or the Said.. In both formulations, openness
~thout assuming sameness. It is a sort of interface exposing singular, to excess is the start of an ethical relation.
Intractable and potentially infinite beings to one another without forc- In .addition to expanding the limits of both Being and language,
ing resemblance or complete communion. Language institutes a rela- Levinasian ethics proposes a set of requirements pertinent for post-
tionality without relationality, and ~ges not require the establishment ' 1 colonial criticism. Justice towards the other, for example, is discussed
of communality. In Levinas's words: "language presupposes interlocu- ~. early on in Totality and Infinity and takes precedence over the freedom
tors, a plurality. Their commerce is not a representation of the one by .of the self Being cannot pursue its own .ends in the name of spontane-
the other, nor a participation in universality, on the common plane of ity if in the process it exerts power over, or tyrannizes, the other. The
language. The commerce ... is ethical" (ibid.: 73). Language reveals the obligation to welcome and do justice to the other restricts the freedom
nudity of the face before it has been interpreted or illuminated, and of the self, although this is not in the sense that the other can oppress
exposes its intractability. It is vital to the creation of community; not the s.elf, but in the sense that it ''calls in question the naive right of my
because it creates identity; but rather precisely because it exposes the powers, my glorious spontaneity as a living being" (Levinas 1969: 84).
self to the Other. It is not the ground of totality but the space in which Even more, the welcoming of the other necessitates in the self a feeling
the Other faces the self in all its possible forms, "hostile, my friend, my ofshame towards his own injustice and pursuit offreedom. Levinas then
master, my student" (ibid.: 81). goes so far as to define the relation to the other as the demand for justice

18 understanding postcolonialism introduction 19

over freedom, again criticizing Heidegger for privileging the latter over explores this exigency in Levinas in Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas, where
the former. Any assumption of the self's power, the subject's ability to he describes Totality and Infinity as "an immense treatise of hospitality"
pursue his own chosen ends, is undermined by the requirement that (1999: 21), and uses his work to explore a concept of hospitality that
attention to the other comes first. Furthermore, in Otherwise than Being, works against the tyranny of the State. This would be an "infinite hos-
justice requires an admission of the otherness of the self; a realization of pitality" without condition, incommensurate with political regulations
the limited mastery of the ego. Levinas here writes less of a confronta- and laws but necessarily conceived alongside these. More practically,
tion between Same and Other, than of proximity, of justice as a result Mireille Rosello uses Levinas in her Postcolonial Hospitality (2001) to
of contact without absorption or assimilation. In his famous "Violence explore the paradoxes of cities of refuge, where the refugee is both wel-
and Metaphysics': Jacques Derrida pointed out that Levinas's terminol- comed and reminded of his otherness. Levinas helps to point out the
ogy in Totality and Infinity risked falling into a schematism reminis- ethical limitations of such a condition.
cent of the ontology he was criticizing, and in response Otherwise than One of the difficulties of Levinas's work in this area, however, is the
Being associates justice and the ethical relation with the brushing of distinction between ethics and politics that in turn troubles and unset-
subjects against one another rather than with an encounter between two tles the postcolonial field. Derrida's reading in Adieu to Emmanuel
dichotomous subjects. In both texts, the concept of justice can clearly Levinas stresses the necessary but impossible conjunction between "the
be related to postcolonial critiques of cultural dOmination, sovereignty law of hospitality': the requirement that the host accept any other, and
and mastery, and could also be used to denounce the colonizer's pursuit "the laws of hospitality': the conditions that necessarily regulate that
of his own "free' ends at the expense of the other. The colonial relation acceptance within the confines of existing states. Derrida argues that
erroneously places the power of the master before the justice owed to both forms of hospitality are indispensable, but have to be conceived
the victim. This resonance in Levinas's work is amplified by the use of as an irresolute aporia within which one necessarily conflicts with the
the term "imperialism" to designate the sovereignty of the self and the other. For Levinas himself; the political, again necessarily, intervenes in
subsequent subjugation of the other: the colonized or the slave. the ethical relation between self and other in that it introduces a third
Justice is at the same time for Levinas associated with responsibility party; or other human subjects, perhaps in the form of society or com-
and, in Otherwise than Being, hospitality. These terms are somewhat munity: It is the need for negotiation with this third party that upsets the
blurred together, since it is the just relation with the other for which the ethical encounter by adding the obligation to consider external factors.
selffinds himself responsible. The ethical relation is also the responSible This very "third term': however, although establishing the demands of
relation, in which the subject attends to the difference and demands of the political, troubles or throws into question the purity of Levinasian
the other. Responsibility is also hospitality, moreover, and requires the ethics and the direct, unmediated encounter with the face. At the same
welcoming of the other into one's dwelling. Dwelling is not an object of time, it is this third party that disrupts the potential asymmetry of the
possession; it is the place of shelter, of the constitution of subjectivity, encounter (I can put myself in the place of the other, but cannot myself
but it does not root Being securely in the ground. It is not a conduit to be replaced); it forces the self to be other differently, or other to another
the soil or owned by right, but, pre-existing Being, is merely the space other. Nevertheless, when asked about the relation between ethics and
in which the subject establishes intimacy in the face of the elements. politics, Levinas still subordinates the latter to the former, arguing for
At the same time, in order not to be constricted by possession, "I must an engagement with both while also admitting that there remains a
be able to give what I possess': and "the Other - the absolutely Other contradiction between them. The example ofIsraelleads him to suggest
- paralyzes possession, which he contests by his epiphany in the face" that "there might be an ethical limit to this ethically necessary political
(Levinas 1969: 171). Thus for Levinas habitation offers security to the existence" (1989: 293), but he falls silent on what this would mean for
self; but must also be conceived as another space of encounter that the Jewish people of that state.
puts into question the possibility ofpossession. In addition, beyond the There is not space here to consider the intricacies of Levinas's writing
dwelling of the intimate selfLevinas throws into question the territory of on Israel, but certainly it is here that the contradiction between ethics and
the State, since although this concept appears to priOritize proximity; it politics starts to make the debate disturbingly hazy. As Caygill explores
too rests on a belief in Being that excludes what lies beyond it. Derrida with great subtlety; Levinas seems confused in Difficult Freedom (1990a)

20 understanding postcolonialism introduction 21

about whether the Jewish people should be conceived as a "fraternity" Relation" learns at least implicitly from Levinas's concept of an encoun-
or whether they represent universal ethical concerns. Levinas struggles ter without sameness or consensus. Levinas remains alone in his priori-
to reconcile the political demands of the State ofIsrael and the uncon- tization of ethics over freedom, and postcolonial thinkers for the most
ditional ethics that he affirms Judaism prOvides. He suggests a return part conceive their ethics rather as a recognition of the freedom of the
to notions of sacrifice, but for Caygill, "this seems dangerously close to other rather than as a relation preceding the affirmation of freedom.
sacrificing to an idol - the most powerful, faScinating and irresistible Many subsequent notions of mastery, totalitarianism and irreducible
of modem idols - the nation-state" (2002: 165). When he goes on to alterity nevertheless inherit these notions, either overtly or implicitly,
pro~ose a ~oo~er form of state identity to accommodate the Diaspora, from Levinas's groundbreaking formulation of twentieth-century ethics.
he nsks this time falsely unifying Jewish identity. Even more discon- Poststructuralist currents in postcolonialism, analysed for the most part
certingly, Caygill points out that Levinas is unclear about whether he in the second half of this book, are deeply indebted to Levinas even if
conceives Islam to playa part in holy history and even describes the he is often now not explicitly acknowledged.
Asiatic world as a stranger to Europe. He also evades the question of As major influences for postcolonial thinkers, Marxism and Levina-
the place of the Palestinians and subsumes their plight into a broader sian ethics raise quite distinct questions concerning the errors of colo-
reflection on universal responSibility. His call for peace at the end of nialism and the strategies or modes of thinking crucial to its overthrow.
Totality and Infinity seems ill equipped to deal with the particular ten- Many later critics have chosen to foreground the strands in postcolonial
sions of Israel and Palestine. critique related to one of these schools, and certainly political and eth-
IfLevinas's thought is flawed in many ways, however; his ethics, ifnot ~ ical thinkers express their goals in quite different, even contrasting,
~~ politi~s, is crucial for postcolonial reflection on alterity. His work ,t ways. Parry comments explicitly on this disjunction between Marxism
ill Itself SIgnalS some of the problems explored in the current book, in and poststructuralist ethics, and, advocating a Marxist-oriented frame
that his belief in the ethical relation at times fails to tackle the political of analysis, points out that "the rejection by poststructuralism of the
req~ements of a situation of conflict, in this case one as troubling as Marxist notions underpinning left anti-colonial thinkers - capitalist
~at ill the State ofIsrael And indee~, his non-engagement with Islam . system, structural divisions, nationalism, an emancipatory narrative,
itself oddly comes close to a:. colonial drive towards the marginalization universalism - suggests that the discrepancy between the infomIing
~f e other's culture. It is nevertheless precisely that overwhelmingly
SIgnificant strand of his work devoted to ethics and alterity that will
premises is not readily negotiated" (2004: 7). This study will explore
the differences between these approaches within postcolonialism, while
prove a foundation for later conceptions of a postcolonial openness also revealing the potential overlap between them, the overlap that crit-
to difference. Derrida's criticisms of Levinas's work have already been ics such as Parry believe is under-analysed. Controversy has arisen in
noted, but in fact much more important is Derrida's debt to Levinasian the confrontation between political and ethical thinkers, but closer
ethics, which underpins his entire deconstruction of Western meta- inspection reveals that the two approaches are not directly opposed,
physics ~d ethnocentrism. Explicitly engaging with Levinas repeat- but can be conceived as related, if not identical in their aims. More-
edly, De::nda also uses the ethical encounter to inform his conception over, while it may seem reasonably clear that a militant such as Fanon
of ~e blindness of the Western episteme or system of knowledge (via requires a different framework and vocabulary from a philosopher as
readings of Saussure, Rousseau and Levi-Strauss), as well as his read- ethically minded, and indeed as "textualist': as Derrida, thinkers such as
ing of colonialism and sovereignty in The Monolingualism of the Other Spivak and Mudimbe oscillate constantly between ethics and politics as
(19~8). In addition, Bhabha's postcolonial philosophy scarcely mentions if to stress their necessary contiguity. These latter theorists also include
Le~as but, as we shall see, his exploration of the flickering presence of criticisms of both Marxism and deconstructive ethics in their work,
ambIvalence and alteritywithin colonial discourse is highly reminiscent and use strands of each to reveal the shortcomings associated with the
of Levinas's permeation of Totality with Infinity, or the Said with the unequivocal embrace of either school A genuine understanding of the
~aying. Abdelkebir Khatibi's foregrounding of otherness and bilingual- multiple levels and layers of postcolonial critique will require a reflec-
Ism can also be seen to emerge from a Levinasian understanding of tion of each field as it alternately interweaves with and diverges from
excess and the intractable, and,finally, Edouard Glissant's ''poetics of the other.

22 understanding postcolonialism introduction 23

Key points

Postcolonialism consists of the multiple political, economic, cul-

tural and philosophical responses to colonialism. It is a broad
term that is used to refer to effects following the beginning of
colonial rule, and, although it covers all regions, is most com-
monly now associated with the aftermath of British and French
colonialism. two
The field of postcolOnial studies has often been divided between
those who concentrate on political critique and those interested Fanon and Sartre: colonial Manichaeism
in postcolOnial ethics. This split is somewhat artificial, but the two and the call to arms
currents can be understood in terms of the influences of Marxism
and Levinasianethics on postcolonialism.
Marx was ambivalent about the colonial project. He criticized the
economic exploitation it brought with it but also saw the bene-
fits of wiping out the hierarchies of the caste system in India. His
writings on capitalism, on ideology and on revolution have been Frantz Fanon is undoubtedly one of the most significant and influ-
enormously influential to postcolonial thinkers. ential of anti-colonial revolutionary thinkers. Born in Fort-de-France,
Levinasian thought can be seen to be at the root of postcolonial Martinique in 1925 to a middle-class family, he grew up thinking of
ethics. Levinas denounced the concepts of Totality and mastery himself as French. He was educated in a French school and, before fin-
that underpin all forms of totalitarianism, and recommended ishing his education, fought for France in the Second World War. Even
openness and respect towards the other as other. His notions of when serving his country, however, Fanon experienced racism from
justice, responsibility and hospitality are also useful in conceiving his French allies, and he criticizes the caste system within the army,
a postcolOnial ethical critique. whereby whites were positioned at the top, with the Senegalese, the first
to be sent into battle, at the bottom. After the end of the war, Fanon
went to study psychiatry in Lyon, and published Black Skin, White
Masks in 1952. Disillusioned with metropolitan culture, he denounces
the Manichaean divisions of the colonial system and rails against the
rigid classification of the "negro" as inferior and "other: After finish-
ing medical school, Fanon took a position at the Blida-Joinville psy-
chiatric hospital in Algiers, where he began to investigate culturally
sensitive approaches to madness. A year after he arrived, however, the
Algerian War of Independence began, and Fanon quickly found himself
caught up in the revolutionary struggle. Treating torture victims and
those with psychological illnesses related to the violence, he witnessed
at first hand the mental scarring caused by the conflict and began to
speak out against its horrors. When the increasing intensity of the vio-
lence made practising psychiatry difficult, he resigned his position, left
Algeria and worked for the National Liberation Front openly from his
exiled position in Tunis. Some of his most influential writing stems
from this period. The Wretched ofthe Earth (1967) analyses the process

24 understanding postcolonialism fanon and sartre 25

of decolonization in Algeria in order to evolve a universal revolutionary ings largely ignored the Fanon of Peau noire, masques blancs;
politics, advocating violence and national cohesion. The essays collected post-colonial readings concentrate almost exclusively on that
in A Dying Colonialism (1980) discuss the changes the Algerian revolu- text and studiously avoid the question of violence.
tion wrought on sodal relations and everyday life. (Macey 2000: 28)
Fanon is clearly a highly militant thinker and, indeed, The Wretched
ofthe Earth has been seen as no less than a "handbook" for revolution- Celia Britton explores the rather less neutral reactions of a range of
ary action. The decolonization of Algeria was its immediate focus, but critics towards his leap from psychoanalysis to politics and sodety,
the Marxist struggle for liberation proposed by the text has also been noting both Diana Fuss's assumption of their successful amalgamation
interpreted to be applicable more broadly. The book was used by leaders . and objections levied by thinkers such as Henry Louis Gates Jr and
in contexts as different as that of Malcolm X in the African-American Fran<;:oise Verges that the exploration of alienation does not take i~to
Black Power movement of the 1960s and Steve Biko in the Black Con- account sodal factors. Britton's own reading concentrates more specifi-
sdousness movement in South Africa during the same period. IfFanon cally on Fanon's adaptation of Freudianism to suit the context of the
is often seen as one ofthe most militant and incendiary critics of colonial Caribbean, namely his rejection of the Oedipus complex in favour of an
politics, however, his writing is not uniformly directed towards practi- exploration of sodal alienation. Certainly, however, unlike Britton her-
cal revolution. The Wretched ofthe Earth advocates decolonization with self, many readers ofFanon have chosen to foreground either one side of .
more urgency and immediacy than Black Skin, White Masks; it is here his vision or the other, as ifhis deeper reflections on the configuration
that he denounces the physical violence of colonialism and advocates of self and other in the psyche were not part of his call for concrete lib-
that this must be countered with direct violence against the colonizer. eration. Most striltingly, perhaps, Homi Bhabha, having noted Fanon's
The mission is the absolute overthrow of the colonial system, by force if eclecticism, goes on to explore the obscure and ambivalent function of
necessary. In Black Skin, White Masks, however, although Fanon is cer- desire in the colonial vision: the white man's fantasized answer to the
tainly highly critical of colonial politics, and although he gives vent to his question "What does the black man want?" independent of context.
anger towards the colonizer's sense of superiority and towards the stark Bhabha stresses the Lacanian resonances ofFanon's Other, the continu-
reductions of the stereotypes that continue to circulate around notions ally displaced subject that slides beneath the Signifier and that disables
of "black identity': he perceives the violence ofcolonialism as a cultural the rigid binary opposition between Manichaean essences. Lazarus, on
situation: part of a system of significations and assodations that weave the other hand, reads Fanon's new form of nationalism for its question-
themselves insidiously into the consdousness ofboth colonizer and colo- ing of the future of capitalism. Although Lazarus expresses reservations
nized. The colonized is the victim above all ofthe pernidous image ofhis concerning Fanon's ability fully to understand the consciousness of the
identity propagated by colonial ideology; rather than of brute force. To . colonized, he nevertheless stresses the significance of Fanon's Marxist
summarize, in The Wretched ofthe Earth, Fanon examines less the myths call to transform the prevailing social order.
ofcolonized identity than the politics or modes ofthinking necessary for My argument here is that these distinct strands in Fanon's work are
their overthrow. In the earlier work, his overt focus remains rather on not contradictory, and are not separated between the two major works
identity; desire and the psychoanalytic structures of alienation. as starkly as it appears. Both Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched
Many have noted, reinforced or condemned this division in Fanon's ofthe Earth are at once devoted to specific political contexts - the former
philosophy between concrete political engagement and a more psy- that of Martinique, and the latter that of Algeria - and reach far beyond
choanalytically oriented investigation ofidentity and alienation. David the confines of that original historical and geographical location. Both
Macey, Fanon's biographer, comments on his two apparently distinct denounce the colonial system, albeit from different points of view; while
guises, the post-colonial or early Fanon, and the militant, "Third World- proposing a far broader, quasi-humanist "dialectic of experience" and
isi' revolutionary Fanon: a belief in self-invention. Fanon is at once, and in both texts, a political
activist and a philosopher ofwhat it means to be human and, even more,
the ''post-colonia[' Fanon is in many ways an inverted :image of this revised, anti-Eurocentric form of humanism touches, at least impli-
the '"revolutionary Fanon" ofthe 196Os. "Third Worldist" read- dtly, on an ethical commitment to otherness and to the new. Although

fanon and sartre 27

26 understanding postcoloniaJism
he is conceived most often either as a militant or as a psychoanalytic French. Fanon argues above all that colonialism entailed not integra-
thinker, Fanon is in fact not only both of these but, in fusing these two tion but separation: the radical division of society along crude racial
approaches, finishes by proposing a vast and far-reaching renewal of lines. French society failed to welcome him but made him feel both
the very concept of the human, of endless self-creation as opposed to foreign and inferior or subordinate. Concomitantly, Fanon describes
reification and stasis. He advocates at the same time respect for the the relation between black and white engendered by colonialism as
other's dynamism and denounces the ontolOgical categorization of the a stark binary opposition, and although, crucially, Fanon himself is
other as well as the practical mechanics of dOmination. Freedom is at not Manichaean in his thinking in the way that some critics believe,
the heart of Fanon's call, unlike that of Levinas, for whom the ethical the object of his criticism is precisely the rigid binary divisions of the
encounter precedes freedom, but nevertheless in Fanon the embrace of colonial vision. Black and white are rigidly polarized, and there is no
freedom originates in the overthrow of the masterful imposition of an communication or blurring between them: "the white man is sealed in
ontological category on the subjugated other. Fanon may also appear his whiteness. The black man in his blackness" (Fanon 1968: 9). Colo-
to contradict himself in championing both the self-affirmation specifi- nial racism involves this process of reification or objectification, as the
cally of the black man and a re-evaluation of the human, but his work is white man creates a fixed, phantasmal image of the black man's essence.
ingenious preCisely because it marries a dynamic reclaiming of "negro" Racism denies the identity of the other; it over-determines that identity
identity politics with an urge to question "identity': and a beliefin spon- from the outside and prevents the colonized from inventing himself in
taneous and ongoing mutation. his own way. As a result, "what is often called the black soul is a white
This dynamic conception of self-creation is also, despite their differ- man's artifact" (ibid.: 12). Black identity is understood by means of a set
ences, one of the points on which Fanon is united with Sartre. Another of fixed and reductive stereotypes.
~tant. calling for the decolonization of Algeria, Sartre was closely One of the most famous, and most arresting, passages in the text is
allied With Fanon and wrote the paSSionately polemical preface to The the anecdote that opens the chapter "The Fact ofBlaclcness" describing
Wretched of the Earth. Fanon repeatedly refers to Sartre in Black Skin, the alienation of the blackman in France. It is here that Fanon's language
White Masks, comparing the alienation of the black man with Sartre's is the most startlingly visceral and immediate, and the reference to the
discussion ofJewish identity in Anti-Semite and Jew (1948a). Although !r
everyday at the same time reinforces his demand for attention to actual
critical ofSartre's conception of negritude as a stage in a dialectic, how- lived experience. Expecting to be treated in France as a citizen and
ever, Fanon continued to share the former's understanding of the impor- compatriot, Fanon's autobiographical persona tells of his shock when
tance of a new form of humanist creativity that would transcend the he observes a young boy pointing to him and crying, "Mama, see the
ossified images promulgated by the colonizer and that would posit the Negro, I'm frightened" (ibid.: 79). The little boy associates Fanon's black
black man as spontaneously self-inventing as well as specifically "negro': skin with a whole gamut of stereotypes, including illiteracy, physical
The intricacies ofFanon and Sartre's relation will be discussed later in strength and rhythmic sense: "tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual defi-
this chapter, but it is nevertheless worth stressing for now that both are at ciency, fetishism, racial defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above
once deeply engaged in a political anti-colonial movement and involved all: 'sho good eatin''' (ibid.), the latter phrase translating the image of
in a larger, philosophical and at times ethical struggle upholding a pro- a black colonial infantryman eating from a billycan and pronouncing
tean form of humanity free from political totalitarianism and from an "C'est bon, Banania" in a Creole dialect. Reacting to this over-determi-
imperialist ontology that over-determines and hypostatizes the other. nation, Fanon describes the trauma of being forced to look at himself
from the outside and failing to recognize the image with which he is
presented. Fixed and objectified by the white man's gaze, the black man
Frantz Fanonr Black Skinr White Masks fails to identify with the image projected onto him and is disjointed and
ruptured from himself. In Fanon's words, he experiences "an amputa-
Black Skin, White Masks was written while Fanon was at medical school tion, an excision, a haemorrhage that spattered my whole body with
~ Ly~n, and much of what he explores in this text stems from the way black blood" (ibid.). It is as ifhis body has been torn open and covered
ill which he was treated, having arrived in France believing that he was in black blood, connoting at once the destruction of the self and the

28 understanding postcoJoniaJism fanon and sartre 29

reinforcement of his black identity. The upshot is that in North and The psychoanalytic dimension of Fanon's work.will ~.eady ~e
South America, West Africa and the Caribbean, black people have been ceptible in this summary, but it is important that ill this illvestigation
divorced from the rest of society and treated as beasts. Robbed of his he also reads and adapts the work of other analysts. In his discussion of
identity, the black man is told what he is by the white man, who believes the inferiority complex, Fanon draws on Octave Mannoni's Prospero and
incontrovertibly in his own superiority. Caliban: The Psychology ofColonization (1956), and indeed, he expresses
Fanon explains that this alienation and failure ofidentification entails his gratitude to Mannoni for producing such a detailed study of c~lo
a particular type of splitting. Comparing his understanding of racism to nial structures in Madagascar. Nevertheless, Fanon sets about unplck-
Sartre's description of anti-Semitism, Fanon argues that in both cases the ing Mannoni's hidden Eurocentric assumptions and, most si~cantly,
victim is over-determined from without. Sartre's formulation is that "the criticizes the latter's belief that the complex pre-dates coloruzation. He
anti-Semite creates the Jew" (1948a). In the case of the Jew, however, the also objects to Mannoni's assertion that the black man was colonized
stereotype evolves from the idea that the anti-Semite retains ofJewish because he was dependent on the European, and reverses the logic so
identity, not from the latter's physical characteristics. The Jew is there- as to stress how the European precisely made the black man dependent
fore not alienated from his own body, according to Fanon. In the case through the imposition of the colonial system. According to Fano~,
of the black man, however, it is his very skin that is over-determined, Mannoni forgets that the Malagasys he took as the object of his analYSIS
and the black subject is alienated not only by the other's erroneous exist in the way they do precisely because of the European presence:
imagination, but also from himself, from his own appearance. It is from they were created by the colonizer. Furthermore, Mannoni goes on to
this internal splitting that Fanon derives the image of the "black skin, analyse the Malagasys unconscious, the web of impulses and neuros~s
white masks': that contribute to his desire to become white, but Fanon suggests agam
This sense of a double or split identity also stems from the colonized that this desire is the result of the colonial presence. It is therefore not
subject's use of the French language. This has extraordinarily complex strictly an unconscious desire, but the result of an internalized image of
implications, since Fanon's own writing in French precisely brought himself created by the presence of the colonizer. It is in this sense that
him the recognition he deserved and made his work accessible to a far Fanon also departs from Freud, since he argues that the very notion of
broader audience than the use of Creole would have allowed. Never- the unconscious is too generalized and universal to account for the spe-
theless, French remains the colonial language and its usage signals cific historical and cultural conditions shaping the black man's psyche.
in some sense a participation in the culture of the colonizer. Accord- Fanon's use and recreation of psychoanalytic models continues in the
ing to Fanon, the black man's use of French compromises his sense of chapter on psychopathology. Here colonialism specifically in the Carib-
identity, and constitutes the very white mask of which his title speaks. bean is analysed for its psychic effects on the colonized. Fanon argues
In using French, the black man becomes whitened; he is masked by that the black man does not suffer from the Oedipus complex because
the screen of colonial culture and divorces himself further from any his neurosis originates instead in his cultural situation. If for the Euro-
sense of a "native" identity, of his original roots. Fanon's analysis of pean the relation with the fanilly becomes a model for social interacti~n,
this phenomenon is further complicated by his scorn for "negro" dia- in the case of the Antillean the subject is forced to choose between family
lects that patronize the black man and enclose him in a narrow and and society. Using Jung's concept of a collective unconscious, Fanon
limited world. He argues, "speaking in pidgin-nigger closes off the asserts that the Antillean is forced to internalize a white unconscious,
black man; it perpetuates a state of conflict in which the white man imposed by society and not by the authority of the fanilly. He does not,
injects the black with extremely dangerous foreign bodies" (1968: 27). then, enter society as a result of his separation from the mother d ru:
The black man is as a result caught up in a double bind. In speaking adherence to the law of the father, but continues to experience fanilly
local dialects, he perpetuates his subordinate position and allows the authority and societal authority as conflictual. In addition, Fanon dis-
white man to retain his preconceptions of the black man's linguistic cusses the sexual associations of racism towards the blackman, together
incompetence. In speaking French, he reinforces the hegemony of with their effects on the black man's psyche. The white man's fabricated
the colonial language and supports the culture that necessarily accom- image of the black man stresses the latter's sexual prowess, and this
panies it. fantasy of the virile black man makes him an object of both fear and

fanon and sartre 31

30 understanding postco!onialism
desire. "The Negro symbolizes the biological" (Fanon 1968: 118), and
it is in this curious conjunction of fascination and disgust that readers man's splitting, Fanon appears first to imply nevertheless that there is
such as Bhabha have uncovered the ambivalence in Fanon's notion of a specificity to the category "negro" and later to abandon the category
the colonial psyche. Conscious that his analysis appears to veer away altogether. On the one hand, Fanon confidently ~s "I am ~e~ro':
from "the real': Fanon nevertheless stresses that this fantasized imago and he seems to want to reinforce his sense of belongmg to a distinct
precisely structures the actual colonial project, and it is the white man and particular race. On the other hand, the te~ also sets out to ~rm
who occludes the cultural specificity of the Antillean behind his rei- the liberation of the individual self and champIOns a form of eXIsten-
fied vision of the "negro" more broadly. This culturally created set of tial freedom, the ability to reinventonesel Despite his continued use
images is what forms for Fanon the Jungian collective unconscious: of the specified term "negro': much of the text rejects it~ unifying and
this is the ideological burden that is imposed on the black man and homogenizing implications, and the curious state~ent ~,~e .c~nclu
that divorces him from himself The sexualized imagery surrounding sion that "the Negro is not. Any more than the white man (tbtd .. 165)
the black man is further explored by Fanon in the chapters on gender displays his mistrust for any inherent black being-in-itself. The oddly
relations between the black woman and the white man, and the black disjointed sentences, severed with an abrupt full stop, cut the. rea~er
short and force us to confront our presumptions regarding black Identity
man and the white woman. Fanon criticizes Mayotte Capecia's Ie suis
Martiniquaise (1948) for exposing the black woman's desire for the white and existence.
man, and her fantasy of cleansing and becoming white. He also explores Fanon also vacillates in his evaluation of the negritude movement.
Rene Maran's Un Homme pareil aux autres (1947), and the central char- Negritude was important in West Africa during the struggle f~r inde-
acter Jean Veneuse's self-doubt and self-loathing, his inability to believe pendence in countries such as Cameroon and Senegal, and certainly the
that a white woman loves him, as an indication of how the black man Senegalese poet and political leader Leopold Sedar Seng~or promote~
internalizes the white man's myth. the cause from both a cultural and a political standpomt. Senghor s
Fanon's final chapter develops this conception of the white mask poetry reclaims black identity by returning .to a vision o~ traditi?nal
through readings of Alfred Adler and G. W E HegeL Fanon uses Adler, African life, championing values such as emotion, spontaneI~ ph~SICal
for example, to argue that "the Negro is comparison" (1968: 149); the ity, rhythm and dance. Negritude was at the same time a .po~ticalideol
Antillean has no value of his own but is seen only as a sign of the other. ogy for Senghor, which, together with a form of modernIZation learned
His analysis differs from Adler's model, however, in that it applies not from the French, ironically, would serve to redefine the African nation
to individuals but to a whole society. The black man in general becomes on its own terms. Senghor's negritude was also humanist; it conceived as
dependent on the white; he has no being-for-itseIt no Sartrean reflexive h "this trading between the heart and the mind" and promoted a
uman "(S
consciousness other than the image constructed for him by the white "'confrontation: 'participation, 'communion' of subject ~d ~bjec: . en-
man. In his reading ofHegel, Fanon then argues that the relation between ghor 1954: 9). The Martinican writer and politician Cesarre slIDilarly
the blackman and the white man resembles Hegel's dialectic between the used the term to describe the revolutionary power of black poetry an~,
master and the slave, except that in Hegel's schema the relation is based indeed, Fanon often quotes Cesaire's. ~sion ?f ~egri~de as a ~ynaIDl~
on reciprocal recognition. In Fanon's configuration ofthe white man and movement of reinvention and creatiVIty. Cesarre wntes of a return
the black man, however, there is no recognition: "the Negro is a slave to the native land, although this is once again less a backwards m~ve
who has been allowed to assume the attitude of a master" (ibid.: 156). ment towards origin and essence than a dynamic process of recreation.
There is therefore no meeting ofconsciousnesses where one subsequently On some level, then, in parts of Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon d~es
takes control over the other. The white man has already determined and seem to be upholding a similar notion of black specifici:-r ~d .assertmg
trapped the blackman as slave by claiming to have granted him freedom that this alternative identity category can act in contradistinction to the
and preventing him from acquiring it for himself myths imposed by the colonial gaze. A return to some sort of "authentic-
ity" (albeit fictitious, in particular in the Caribbean) can h~lp the black
If this summary offers a certain coherence to Fanon's philosophy in
Black Skin, White Masks, however, this does not mean that the work is man to restore a sense of self and to repair the psychological damage
without apparent inconsistencies. In developing his vision of the black of colonial deculturation. But it is nevertheless important for Fanon
that there can be no single set of "black values': since black identity is
32 understanding postcolonialism
fanon and sartre 33
ontology that refuses to allow Being to attain the mastery and stasis of
inevitably mobile and ch c; bl Totality. Self and other coexist in the world and, in meeting, perceive
specificity entails a deterZ: e, and the notion of any kind of black
ity. Negritude culture unc ~ that reduces and glosses that variabil- one another's inassimilable difference. Political liberation requires at the
produced by the colonizer. ann . Y.trepallrodfiuces some of the stereotypes same time this alternative perception of Being that stresses its continual
. ' smcel c s oraretur t Af . processes of recreation, and Fanon's demand for attention to this notion
a remstatement of black virility d n 0 ncan soil and
,. an strength. of Being does implicitly belong to the realm of what humanity "ought"
Fanons rousmg conclusion to Black Ski Wh to do. Freedom is of course not secondary here, as it is for Levinas, but
reaches far beyond the f n, tteMasks for this reason
concerns 0 identity liti d the affinnation of the freedom of the self also requires the recognition of
instead the extraordinary richness and .. po cs an celebrates
no ~onger has the capacity to over_de~~tyofthehuman. "History"
the other's ability to recreate himself freely. Fanon's return to the notion
subject rises out ofits confin d . . me the human; rather, the of the human also proposes a broad terminology obliging each subject
Fanon's now um al es an POSIts Itselfbeyond its conditioning to recognize and accept the individuality of the other. This humanism
vers persona affinns "I . . is no longer that of the universalization of European values, but a more
I should not seek there for th . am not a pnsoner of history.
". e meanmg of my destin" d open demand for a liberated form of individual self-creation, as well
m the world throu h which I y an resolves
(1968: 163). Driftin gawa fr tra~el, I am endlessly creating myself" as a specific symbol of resistance rather than a new transcendentalism.
lean F ' .. g ~ om notions of both the negro and the Antil- Recognition of the other's humanity entails an understanding of his or
. .' anons WrIting subject speaks for h
mdividual shapes his 0,wn th hil uma~:llty
pa w e recreating h
and urges that each
lf h
her singular form of self-invention. Lastly, Fanon finishes Black Skin,
White Masks with a call for a form of encounter with the other that
fiorwards. Driven now less b identi . . unse as e moves
ism, he advocates continualY 1 tyPallitics than a fonn of existential- allows the self to touch, feel, experience his otherness: "why not the quite
se -renew and ingul. . simple attempt to touch the other, to feel the other, to explain the other
of the detenninations of conte- Th.IS transcendenc
s , anzation . . regardless
to myself" (1968: 165). This is not quite the relation without relation of
the outcome of Fanon's dialectic, whi ch moves through e IS, lillportantly,
b the Levinasian encounter, but an embodied, affective ethics of contact,
of History and an understandin of Manic . . an' em race
to emerge afterwards in this re~ of haeI~m m .order precisely acceptance and recognition, operating viscerally at the level of the skin.
liquidate difference as some c .ti. h endless remvention. It does not
. , r I cs ave sugoest d b kn
difference while refusing to allow It . to b e confinI:> e,
d t ut ac . owledges
Fanon's dialecti. . al e 0 a static category: Frantz Fanon l The Wretched of the Earth
c IS so one rooted in lived e . .
engagement with th xpenence, but he uses that
e concrete and the eve d t The Wretched of the Earth is without doubt from the outset a more
and renewed fonn of 1 . ry ay 0 create an altered
.. . ~ m:ry as argued that
se -conSCIOusness Whil P h overtly committed and militant text than Black Skin, White Masks.
Fanonnever actually resolves this co
negritude and identity politics I ulntrdadiction m his engagement with Fanon opens quite starkly with a clear call to arms: "national libera-
. ,wo stress that Fan' . . tion, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people,
c1USIOn precisely shows how th bi k ons majestic con-
to an over-detennined and e aCcifiman, condenmed by colonialism Commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new for-
. over-spe ed pI . Hi mulas introduced, deco16nization is always a violent process" (1967:
his consciousness of himself I k ace m story, must adapt
a denial ofhis Manichaean c~~t:~~u~o beyon~ this. This ent~ not 27). One of the central tenets of the collection will therefore be that the
as a result of which he ~'"o,uld succeed m . a Un
dynanuc engagement WIth it,
. . g him
overthrow of colonial violence must itselfbe a violent procesS. Given the
intransigence of colonialfo!ce, decolonization can occur only when that
If. Fanon is most ostensibly a defiant o:um . self anew.
alds m this conclusion the seeds of a he p cal t~inker, he also her- force is met with equal antagonism. The colonized should not wait to
reconfiguration of self and th IfPth non::enologIcal and even ethical try to subvert the system from within (Bhabhis invocations of colonial
. 0 er. e white man's tyr la ambivalence, of representational uncertainties on both sides, have little
nnposition of a reified image onto the black .' anny y m his
subsequent splitting and di al th man and m the black man's resonance here). Rather, the colonized can only mimic the techniques of
savow, en the 0 erthr fth
demands the liberation of L.~e th
the colonizer, who from 1830 onwards subjugated native Algerians with
v ' ow 0 at t-yranny
self. Fanon's belief in reinven. 0 er from. ~e controlling gaze of the the use of force. Furthermore, Fanon's description of the underlying
tion and mobility proposes an alternative
fanon and sartre 35
34 understanding postcolonialism
. b:-'"1-.~ght that is used to living in
structure of colonial thinking is equally stark. Colonizer and colonized This people that has lost ItS 11dU'a1ri
IU, ,
will now procee m
are pitted against one another in the form of a rigid binary opposition, the narrow circle of feuds an nv es, d urify the face of
and there is no possible communication or mediation between them. an atmospher~ of sol~tythtov:::;:ali~es, In a veritable
The colonial society of Algiers in particular is also "in compartments"; th tion as It appears m e di ' ~ ,
e na, families which have always been tra tionl:ll
it is segregated and divided along racial lines in such a way as to fix and collective ecstasy, ' d forget.
, s decide to rub out old scores and to orgIve an
stultify the colonized. Algiers is divided between designated areas for eneIDle ", L b ' ed but un or-
colonizer and colonized, and that segregation is accompanied by social There ate numerous reconciliations. ong- un
inequality. The frontiers between these areas are guarded by police or gettable hatreds are brought to light:: mor: ~a:~~~~
military officers. The only go-between is the soldier, and the transgres- may be more surely rooted out. The t g on (Ibid,: 105)
sion of the border is vigilantly supervised, in turn reinforcing the racial involves a growth of awareness.
divide. So colonialism in Algeria relies on this stark segregation of one , h ions spontaneity as opposed
society from another, and the termination of that system demands the In addition to this new umty, Fanon c bam 1 Pk e-'-hcI'ty Throwing aside
. f "dform 0f ac sp \..lll '
dramatic and violent rejection of the hegemonic community by those to the affirmation 0 a ngI , h dicts the advent of a liberated
who have been expropriated and subordinated. the constraints ~f colonial socle~~u: P~egIIlated innovation, He also
Fanon again argues that the native is the product of colonialism, that upsurge in creati; en~rgy, ~: an~ superstitions under colonialism,
he is formed and created by colonial ideology. The creation ofthe native observes the pro eration 0 of the colonized and the inward channe:-
by the colonizer requires that he channel his aggression inwards rather spread as a result of the fe~ , will herald the end of superstition m
than outwards, so that it does not affect the colonial structure itself. ling of his energy, Decoloruzation 'ty
thinkin and uninhibited communI .
His energy becomes directed towards himself, a phenomenon that for favour of a mo~e f~ee- ganifests itself both practically, through
Fanon characterizes the real anguish of his colonized position. Revolu- Since colo~al Ideol01: m, ti all in its propagation of skewed,
tion occurs, then, when the native succeeds in turning that aggression social se~egation, :md th gu~~e~ i'to challenge its tenets requires
back against the colonizer. Liberation is characterized precisely by this stereotypICal narrativ~s, e I P , d cannot simply question the
moment of realization and by the violent rejection of colonial society t 'th all SIdes The co oruze
engagemen WI , " d to eradicate its entire discourse
using the very terms the latter had used in its enterprise of subjuga- details of the cOlOlllal VISIon, but nee I ' ' t o this that Fanon
. e that is utterly new, tIS owmg
tion. Decolonization is in turn an absolute process and entails the total allin
before inst, . g ~ regun the strategies of the colonized intellectual
destruction of one society and its replacement with an entirely different makes a distinction between F argues that the colonized
'd' ous masses anon
social structure. It is a fundamental change, and can involve no negotia- and those 0 f th e:n I~en , within the terms of the colonial system,
tion or mediation because it necessitates the end ofan entire regime, and intellectual perceIves lIberation . d' t II ctual tries to free
the substitution of existing rulers for different men. Colonialism itself Inheritit1 <T many of its insights, the coloruze me e than seeking
~ imil" t th ruling system, rather
is not an ideology that is open to questioning but a total system, whose himself through ass ation 0 e , II al' ks find-
itsel In this sense, the mte ectu ns
effects can be attenuated only by the destruction of the system itsel to overturn that sy~:e~ d f 1 f ffranchised slaves, or slaves who
Non-violence is for Fanon acquiescence, the acceptance of the colonial , h'lIDself part of a kin 0 c ass 0 a
m d OSI'ti'on
ar~ ~' ~I ~~~:'~;c::U!:::ot~libera-
vision, and resistance must be expressed by the use offorce: "colonialism individuallY,free" (ibid.:
is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties.
It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted
with greater violence" (1967: 48).
tion but in a sort of comproIDlset
or the people, however, deman
within the COlOlllal structure, , e ill e 'vile ed ac uiescence. The masses

abs~lute r~futation of all aspects
hie~"e the same status as the
,~, 1 ' Th y do not wan 0 ac v
Fanon's evidently controversial paean to violence is nevertheless not of COlOllll:ll OgIC. e 1 h' and to eliminate his power
simply a means to condone the shed of revolutionary blood, but also a colonizer, but precisely seek to rep ~ce lID, the actual replacement
th gun'e Revolution reqUITes
call for creativity and spontaneity. The new revolution gives rise to the in favour of ~ new re , 00: I d ands this systematic eradication, and
creation of new men, to new forms of consciousness that can sweep of colonizerWlth coloruz 'th : - trenched, hegemonic terms: "for
away the injustices and prejudices of the old: not a partial engagement WI e en

fanon and sartre 37

36 understanding postc%nialism
disenfranchised and exploited people, he emphasizes that the nature of
them, there is no question of entering into competition with the settler.
this struggle in the colonial context is different from that ~ any oth~r,
since the ruling class is not merely wealthy but also foreIgn. Colo~al
They want to take his place" (ibid.). It is the magnitude of this overthrow
that demands the use of violence, as well as the unification of the people
power is pernicious because it is other, it is imposed from the outSIde
against the former power.
and its managers are therefore even more divorced from the people over
This relationship between the intellectual, or indeed the political
leader, and the masses is a constant preoccupation in The Wretched of whom they wield their influence:
the Earth. Although the revolution requires organization and direction
Fanon is at pains to stress that leaders and thinkers frequently have dif~
it is neither the act of owning factories, not estates, nor a
bank balance which distinguishes the governing classes. The
ferent concerns from those of the people and risk detaching themselves
governing face is first and foremost ~?se ~ho ~ome ~om
from the urgency o~ their requirements. Those in charge of organizing
elsewhere, those who are unlike the ongmal inhabItants, the
the revolt .ten~ to ~e themselves in detail and in local strategy rather others". (Fanon 1967: 31)
~an keepmg m mmd the greater goal of regime change. For the revolu-
tion to be truly effective, however, Fanon asserts that the voice of the
In the chapter "Spontaneity: Strength and Weakness': Fanon develops
his argument in favour of the agency of the masses, yet ~s time he
masses needs to be heard.. VVhile the leaders and intellectuals lose track
of the unity of the movement, Fanon argues:
stresses the danger not only of the dissociation between the mtellectual
and the people but also of a lack of communication between rural and
the people, on the other hand, take their stand from the start
urban areas. First, this is presented as a time lag or difference of rhythm
on the broad and inclusive positions of bread and the land:
between the leaders of the independence party and the people. This dis-
how can we obtain the land, and bread to eat? And this obsti-
junction is exacerbated in the colonies, where the na~onalist ?rganiz~
nate point of view of the masses, which may seem shrunken
tion is copied from the colonial system and seeks ItS constituents ill
and limited, is in the end the most worthwhile and the most
urban areas. The risk is that the concerns of the rural people are ignored
efficient mode of procedure. (Ibid.: 39)
or forgotten by the preoccupations of the town and, indeed, stereotypes
circulate that associate the peasantry with inertia and backwardness.
In a self-consciously Marxist tone, Fanon affirms that the revolution is
Secondly, however, with the development of a new relationship between
in the hands of the people, who retain its goal as an absolute in itself.
urban militants and the rural masses, as well as the evolution of a new
type of revolutionary organization, Fanon's concept of the ~e lag ~ds
Fanon tacitly criticizes the obscure political machinations of those who
attem~t to take con~ol. He is suspicious of the colonized bourgeoisie,
anew expression. The immediacy of mass spontaneous ~~on agamst
and his text. speaks m ~avour of the simple demands of the underprivi-
the colonial system requires the formation of a group of militant leaders
who are able productively to oversee the different facets of ~e s~ggle
leged and disenfranchised proletariat.
Fanon's relationship with Marxism is a complicated one, however,
and to help to formulate a broader national strategy. If there IS a history
and demands further reflection. Certainly, Fanon places the concerns
oflittle contact between the urban leaders and politicians and the rural
of the people above all else, and his revolutionary polemics are often
masses, then the eventual encounter between the militant from the. town
co~c~ed in the l~guage of class revolt Fanon also mistrusts bourgeoiS
and a peasant revolutionary force marks an important moment m the
thinking, and he IS concerned that the decolonization of Algeria should
creation of a new decolonized order.
One difficulty identified by Fanon in the existing staru:' quo is that ~e
result in the return of power to the hands of the people, rather than to
a narrow privileged elite. Indeed, Sartre's reading ofFanon contains the
rural masses can tend to equate the urban colonized With the colomal
straightforward assertion that "the national revolution will be socialist"
order itself. When urban militants and thinkers arrive in the rural areas
(~artre 2001: l39). Fanon's engagement with Marxism is highly spe-
expecting to be treated as leaders, this attitude of resistc:nce and mis~st
cific, however, .and ~though he uses its structures, he is also at pains to
stress the particularIty of anti-colonial revolution as opposed to class
can be aggravated, creating tension rather than leading to new u:n:r.
Furthermore, Fanon observes that the leaders themselves can perSIst m
struggle. While he advocates the overthrow of the ruling order by the
fanon and sartre 39
38 understanding postc%niaJism
conc~iving ofthe peasantryin terms informed by colonial ideology. They into question and can be replaced by alternative practices. Artists who
assoCIate ~al culture with a backward return to tradition rather than as seek to return to their origins by depicting the original rituals and cus-
~ alternative set ofpractices to those imposed by the colonizer. Against toms of African peoples risk obscuring the fact that the very people to
this :~ndency, :anon recommends perceiving the peasant's regard for whom they refer have undergone a massive upheaval. The most impor-
traditIOn as eVIdence of his intransigence against colonial infl tant element in the creation of a national art form is precisely that it
D . th uence.
enouncmg e persistence of stereotypes regarding the peasantry, engages with the contemporaneity of its subject. Fanon champi~n~,
Fru: sets out to explore the ways in which urban and rural modes of for example, the poetry of revolt, rather than the poetry of an ongr-
resIs:ance could come to inform one another. Fanons vision consists of nal return, and he reinforces the particular dynamism of the present.
a Ulllversal ,revol~~on, where the intellectual returns to his roots while Indeed, the evolution of a national culture occurs at the very heart of the
th~ ?easants traditions are enlisted as a positive and progressive form of . resistance movement and carurot be separated from its unfolding. "The
cntique. Most importantly; he wants to end the intellectual's estrange- national Algerian culture is taking on form and content as the battles are
ment from the people and hopes for a wider force of solidarity. being fought out, in prisons, under the guillotine, and in every French
At the centre ofFanons call for solidarity between peasants and intel- outpost which is captured and destroyed" (Fanon 1967: 187). Rather
~c:uals, between rural and urban areas, is a politics of nationalism than looking back to the past, national culture lives out its present and
s~ an a:gument that would now be controversial, at the time of th~ reaches forwards into the future, towards the creation of an improved
anti-colo~~ movement Fanon claims that nationalism forms a crucial order freed from the influence of the colonial other. National culture
locus of cntique. Most importantly; the creation of a national culture is in this sense intricately bound up with the particular history of the
would n,?t be ~overned and restricted by a limited bourgeoisie. In the nations development, and since processes of decolonization in Algeria
chap~er The PItfalls of National Consciousness': Fanon warns against and Morocco, for example, were dramatically different, any shared post-
the nsk that posts filled by colonial officials become filled Wlth ali colonial culture will inevitably become a vague abstraction.
b ld nve
~urgeois ea ers who maintain the entrenched deficiencies of the colo- Finally; the conclusion to The Wretched ofthe Earth forms a powerful
ru~ system and who fail to unify the citizens of the new independent statement of Fanons revolutionary vision and brings together some of
nation. He wants to .guard against the possibility that the new ruling the fundamental precepts of his thought. Most important is his uncon-
class would appropnate the national identity and mould it to suit its ditional demand for change. Fanon rejects every aspect of the present
own, nar~ow econo~c concerns. What Fanon does argue in favour of, colonial order and summons the colonized people to action. His tone
~wever, IS the evolution of a specific, unified and identifiable national is apocalyptic, advocating the participation of all citizens in the anti-
c ture, ~reated by the community of the former colony's native inhabit- colonial struggle. Using the metaphor of awakening, he jolts the people
ants, which would function as a concrete alternative to that imposed by into a realization of their acquiescence and calls for the overthrow of
~e c~lonize~. Like the renowned leader ofthe independence movement entrenched ideology and familiar patterns of behaviour: "we must
m Gumea-Blssau,.Amilcar Cabral, Fanon recommends the creation ofa leave our dreams and abandon our beliefs and friendships of the time
cultural commuru:r that would link the colonized in solidarity against before life began. Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating
the oppressor. National culture acts in contradistinction to the colonial mimicry" (ibid.: 251). This opposition between old and new is coup-
~ture and proves that the colonized have an identity other than that led with further recollection of the contrast between Europe and the
Imposed on them by the invading power. It also paves the way towards (ex-) colony. Again using black-and-white rhetoric, Fanon categorically
the future bllrvin th ali .
- I ~.g e mequ ties and prejudices of the past with a
. '
associates Europe with the systematic enslavement of its Third World
celebration of n~w prac~ces and creative forms of expression. other. European culture also connotes a demand for stasis, immobility
So ,:~at Co~stitutes this national culture? It is not necessarily a return and resistance to change. Europeans freeze and atrophy the cultural
to tradition, smce the culture of the nation progresses and moves for- dynamism of their colonized peoples, and they resist the free inv~ntion
wa: as decolonizatio~ is .achi~ved. Once a people has engaged in revo-
of new structures. Even more, European thinking maims and kills the
luti~nary s~gIe, the sIgnification ofits practices and art forms changes. people it wants to govern and denies colonized men their humanity. It
Durmg a penod of such intense change, long-standing traditions come sweeps away individual creativity in favour of the relentless working

40 understanding Postcolonialism
fanon and sartre 41
ing around notions ofManichaeism, community, national culu:r and
of the colonial power machine. In response to this destruction, Fanon innovation rather than dealing with the details of each concept ill turn.
He progressively investigates the nuances of these revolutionary id~as
advocates a r~~rn to the body, and the release of physical power and
~ovemen~ WIthin those who have become divorced themselves:
by endlessly re-describing their mechanisms rather than ~y explo~lllg
the specific workings of each as they manifest themselves ~ Algena. It
1et us deCIde not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our
brains in a new direction. Let us try and create the whole man, whom is this exploration of the language and conceptual foundations of colo:
Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth" (ibid~: 252). nialism as much as its empirical manifestations, that connects Fanons
Reintegrating mind and body, Fanon wants to restore man in his totality
startlin~ly politicized philosophy with a vision larger than i~self, and
and to reconnect the colonized with those parts of himself that have
larger than its nevertheless crucial historical context. ~~on IS a.s c~n
cerned with ontology, humanity, relationality and creatiVIty as he IS ~th
been denied freedom of expression.
. One particularly striking rhetorical feature of Fanon's conclusion the mechanics of the decolonization movement and, indeed, conceIves
IS the repetition of the term "we': On the one hand, this focuses the
such concerns as interdependent. The objective of Black Skin, White
?olemi~, since it addresses the colonized people directly and calls them
Masks was a call for black self-affirmation and mobility, while in The
Wretched of the Earth, the conclusion repeatedly refers t~ a. den:
rrnmediately to action. The inclusive implications of "we" also stress and
ag~ ~~ ~portance of community and solidarity between natives who
the new. In both cases, the practical overthrow of colorualism lllvolves
Ill1ght IDltially have felt alienated and dispersed. The "we" is in this sense
a vast, universal and inescapably ethical liberation from the mastery of
performative: actively bringing together the people it addresses in order
to confirm their unity in the face of colonial oppression. It reminds the self over other.
colonized that they are not isolated in their alienation and emphasizes
the strength derived from sharing and collaboration with others. One
of the difficulties of this generalized call, however, is that since much Jean-PaulSartre
of the preceding chapter on national culture was nonetheless focused One of the most celebrated philosophers of twentieth-century France,
on Algeria, the conclusion can appear to be an addendum divorced
Sartre is also one of the most politically engaged. Having vilified the
from history and lost in the rhythms of its own rhetoric. If Fanon has
been criticized for this gesture of universalization, however, it must
Nazi occupation of France during the Second World Wa:'he cham-
pions both political and ontological freedom throughout this w:
, and,
during the 1950s and 1960s, writes frequently and ferven~y ~ fav~ur
be remembered that the inImediate goal of the writing is to move and
persua~e, to call his readers to action. Fanon also successfully restores
of the decolonization of Algeria. While Albert Camus, the eXistential-
~e .notion of the human as an ethical category so as to advocate creativ-
ist" with whom Sartre is frequently associated, was born in Algeria ~d
Ity mdependently of the determinations of context, even if it remains retained a highly ambivalent attitude towards the French presence ill
cl~ that this is a specific response to colonialism. Alternating the old
what he perceived (rightly) to be his homel~d, s~e w~s resolutely
WIth th~ new, metaphors of atrophy with inspiring evocations of an anti-colonialist. Sartre's thinking on colonialism cntique IS neverthe-
alternative world, the primary referent of the conclusion is the language
less diverse, protean and frequently self-contradictory, ~d h~~ gene~
of chang~ the cal!- for a more just foundation to society, and no longer ated a good deal of controversy. His celebrated and notonous Orphe;
the specific reqUIrements and conditions of the colonized Algerian's noir", or "Black Orpheus" (1948b), written as the preface to Sengho~s
move to freedom. Anthologie de la nouvelle poesie negre et malgache de langue franfalse
While many of the other sections of the text are certainly more (Anthology of new Negro and Malagasy poe~ in French), has been
grounded and more specified than the rousing rhetorical flourishes read as both veneration and critique of the negrItude movement, and he
of the conclusion, this self~conscious use of conceptual language is has been named both spokesman and traitor of anti -colonial re~istan.ce
something that remains at the forefront of Fanon's work. The lack of in Africa. Explicating the dynamics of an assertion of black Ide~tity
historici~ of specific reference, in The Wretched of the Earth places
in contradistinction to colonial influence, he introduced revolution-
the text m the realm of hypothesis, of philosophical experimentation ary black poetry to the European audience it was directed against.
rather than of truth. Fanon also repeats himself frequently, circulat-
fanon and same 43
42 understanding postcolonialism
. . d then positions the black man as
Nonetheless he was soon condemned by some of the other negritude over-determines black Identity an . t d t in this case it is the black
thinkers as Eurocentric and blinded by his own position as a metro- alth ugh as Fanon porn e ou, ,
subordinate, 0 , . rding to the white mans
politan, and therefore colonial, intellectual. The version of negritude , kin that he does not recognIZe acco
, mans very s . thi that anti-colonial resistance must,
promoted in the essay was criticized by such thinkers for being too ! . .alist stem It IS for s reason d d
. raCl sy. ., fbI ckidentityin terms invente an
rigid and essentialist, and yet, conversely, Fanon objected that Sartre's for Sartre, involve the reclarmmg 0 a
stress on the movement as transitory and provisional was insufficiently controlled by the black man himself:
immersed in "authentic black experience': In addition, Sartre's journal-
. th victim as a black man, as a colonized
istic writing calling for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of The black man IS e , . d.
d Afri an. And since he IS oppresse ill
the French presence in Algeria aptly served to draw attention to dissen- n~tive or a~~deporteof it h~ must first seize consciousness of
sion about the Algerian question within French society, but the Marxist hIS race an ecause , . h ainly tried to reduce
approach underpinning these pieces has been seen as universalizing. his race Those who, for centunes, ave v
Sartre's emphasis on the structures ofpolitical and economic oppression him to the status of a beast because he is a negro, he must force
was condemned by Claude Levi-Strauss as obfuscatory of the particu- to recognize him as a man. thr h t)
lar dynamics of colonial and racial exploitation, and the philosophical (Sartre 1948b: xiii-xiv; my translation oug ou
expansion of such analyses in the Critique ofDialectical Reason has also .d . t be other than that which the
been seen to generalize European experiences of capitalism. It is only by showing black 1 entity ~ African can overthrow those
Sartre's multifarious works on colonialism no doubt merited some of colonizer supposed ~at the ~ololllZ:m The oal of the negritude
the responses they provoked, but in many ways the variety and passion stereotypes ~d redIscover hI~h:-re =~ent c~llective black identity
of the comments generated by the corpus testify to its richness. Closer poets is to display the bla~ so d &s laP its otherness to the colonizer.
attention to texts such as "Black Orpheus" uncovers the seeds of a highly in new terms, to recreate It an.. K
sYa direct political purpose, since
sophisticated, self-conscious mode of thinking that reveals the neces- This assertion of black authentiClty a d turns to the black man
sarily multiple layers of postcolOnial critique, and that also turns out to it overthrows the colonizer's stereotypes an re
be closer to Fanon's vision than it might at first have appeared. Sartre's contr?l.over his self-image. th t this assertion of black identity is not
provocative and multidimensional analysis of negritude manages to It l~ rmportant, howeve~d ;s not dictated by a soul that is already
combine a call for political assertion with a philosophically sophisti- a strarghtforward return, affir 't xplicitlythat the black soul was
cated critique of identity politics. His stress on negritude as a stage in . d Sartre himself ms qm e e Th
constitute . . If at the time of the colonizer's invasion. e
an anti -colonial dialectic, and his description of the colonizer's own not a1ready~er~, not ltse identi b the colonizer also influences the
alienation, also dissolves the work's apparent essentialism and commu- over-dete:rnunation ofblack. ty . Y fr himself: he does not know
nitarianism without attenuating its political impact; Sartre's valorization black's self-perception and alienates him om . :d with himself"
of active self-invention provides the seeds of a political strategy, but his . himself: "he is split, he no longer comCI es ta.1.<J
or recog~. ' . from the self again as in Fanon, also es
anti-colonial critique is again, like Fanon's, at least partly ethical in its (ibid.: XVI). This separation . ducated in the French system,
far-reaching call for self-invention and for the subject's recognition of place on the level of language, sillhcle, e e to voice their dissent but
this endless self-invention in the other. the negn e 'tud poets use the Frenc anguag 'T1...
d i ' t them further from themselves . .we
One of the central premises of "Black Orpheus" is the reclaiming of thatlanguage also .
only SSOCIa es . . al lf
t therefore convey any identical, ongm se,
black identity through poetry, and the revolutionary potential of this
re-appropriation. Sartre asserts that colonialism oppressed the black
man as black, and although the structure of the colonized's oppression
poetry th:y wnte canno .
since it still reshapes therr
ness that can nev~r be captur
se! _. ression and glosses over an other-
~formulated. As a result, rather. than
_,c rt hIe recovery of a black bemg at
is similar to that imposed on the worker by capitalist society in Europe, din . t gntude poetry a COllllO a
rea g m 0 n e . " ther s eak of the slight and constant
the colonizer in Africa uses race to justify and prop up the economic harmony with ItSelf, we shO:~~: sa s ~om what he would like to say,
and political hierarchy. Just as in Sartre's analysis the anti-Semite creates discrepancy that sep~atelfs:(.~. d .~) So although Sartre does spend
the Jew and over-determines him from the outside, so the colonizer when he speaks ofhrmse t 1.. .

fanon and sartre 45

44 understanding postcolonialism
time in the e~say exploring the imagery of negritude, its reclaiming of the transition to a higher synthesis, Fanon argued that this diminished
the natural environment, its use of African rhythms as opposed to Euro- its significance and robbed it of its revolutionary force. In Black Ski~,
pean, and its insertion of terms from indigenous languages, these are not White Masks, Fanon rails against the European scorn for the black mans
conceived as pure and originary. Negritude constructs a self that it then strategies of self-affirmation:
claims as "authentic': but it does not propose a straightforward return
to ~ m~cal, pre-colonial, essential state. Negritude's "authenticity" is I wanted to be typically Negro, - it was no longer possible. I
an mvention that serves as a riposte to colonial constructions of black wanted to be white, - that was a joke. And, when I tried, on the
identity but that cannot represent an origin or an essence. level of ideas and intellectual activity, to reclaim my negritude,
Negritude is also not essentialist in Sartre's view because it is in no it was snatched away from me. Proof was presented that my
sense a state, or a "disposition"; it is a challenge to political alienation, effort was only a term in the dialectic. (1968: 94)
but not a denial of its effects. It is also not a set of values but the black
man's ''being-in-the-world': his multiple and changing ways of reacting Sartre's conception of negritude as just a stage in the dialectic was for
to the world and transfOrming it. Sartre equally stresses that it can never Fanon too schematic, too reductive, and reduced the potential of black
be a completed product ,or an end in itself. Instead, it is the negative self-reinvention. Even worse, Nigel Gibson observes that ''because Black
response to the colOnizer, but its gesture of negation will lead to a new consciousness merely contributed to an inevitable and pre-existing goal,
social Structure. It is part of a dialectic and not a totalized position, and Fanon felt that Sartre was curtailing possible futures" (Gibson 2003: 74).
it works as a redressing of an unequal balance, rather than as a goal of Gibson goes on to explain that Fanon believed that colonial imposition
its own. Having spent much of his essay praising the affirmation and impeded the black man's creation of his subjectivity, so that his resi~t
innovation of revolutionary negritude poetry; then, Sartre's conclusion ance had to reach back to a moment before the beginning of the dia-
nevertheless stresses its provisionality: "Negritude must destroy itself, it lectic. The creation of black subjectivity would then be an open-ended
is a transition and not an endpoint" (ibid.: xli). Negritude in this sense and ongoing process, rather than a passing phase before the arrival of
contains the seeds of its own destruction: it must turn against itself in the "society without race".
order paradoxically to attain its real end. It is a crucial strategy, but its Fanon's critique of Sartre was in many ways a justified one, and the
values must also be questioned and ultimately rejected. The use of the dialectic is clearly a problematic structure in several respects. Not only
term "ne~tude" is, on the one hand, supposed to lead to a new stage, does it apparently curtail negritude, but it also denies its "substantive
a new SOCIety that does not need such classifications. But the term is absoluteness": a term borrowed from Hegel, and which Fanon uses to
also questioned because its label opens up a chain of meanings that convey its irreducibility, its immediacy, its roots in lived experience.
reach beyond its classificatory grasp, so that it must also abolish itself Fanon's reservations about "Black Orpheus" also stem from the objec-
Sartre uses the concept of negritude, reveals its essentialist foundations, tion that it does not provide a sense of the real experience and actuality
reworks it and turns it against itself of the black man, the materiality and affect of his everyday life. Fanon
This reading of Sartre's essay crUcially contests Fanon's response as is in many ways correct in his reading of Sartre, and it is no doubt true
expressed in Black Skin, White Masks. As already signalled, Fanon and that Sartre's position has to remain constrained by his position within
Sartre were closely engaged in one another's work on colonialism, per- a clearly European philosophical tradition. Nevertheless, it is also pos-
haps most explicitly and enthUSiastically during the campaign for the sible to read the conclusions to "Black Orpheus" not as a rejection of the
decolonization of Algeria. Sartre's Critique of Dialectic Reason was a open-ended potentiality of negritude, but precisely as a warning that the
major influence in Fanon's writing of The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon movement must not at any stage become closed, completed or, indeed,
asked Sartre to write the preface, and both thinkers' reflections on vio- too clearly defined. Its perpetuation would only increase the risk that
lence appear to learn and borrow from one another. Fanon's reaction to its dynamism might slow and that its label might stabilize and become
"Black Orpheus" was, however, problematic, and he focused on Sartre's entrenched. A reading of "Black Orpheus" that takes account ofSartrean
disIP.issal of black identity in contrast to his own celebration of the concepts of the disordered freedom and contingency of beinglor-itself
latter's potential. If Sartre conceived negritude as a process, a stage in would stress that he is attempting to prevent negritude from slipping

46 understanding pastcolanialism farlan and sartre 47

into bad faith, into a category that would betray the very creativity and ()n its own destruction. Again in the preface to The Wretched of the
invention it promotes. The disagreement between Fanon and Sartre Earth, Sartre notes that the colonizer wants to kill the colonized, and
from this point of view is less that the former conceives. black identity yet he also wants to exploit him. Colonialism in reality therefore urges
as endlessly self-inventing whereas the latter reduces it to stereotypes; the elimination of the subjugated other, only this would necessarily
rather, the dispute centres on the term negritude itself, which Fanon end the project of exploitation and subjugation. Sartre's essay on Albert
believes can remain open-ended, while Sartre insists it has to negate Memmi's The Colonizer and the Colonized expands this structure of co-
itself to remain faithful to its own principle. It is "an explosive fixity; an dependence, noting once again that the colonizer hates the colonized he
expression of pride that renounces itself, an absolute that knows itself oppresses but, brought to its logical conclusion, this hatred means that
to be transitory" (Sartre 1948b: xliii). Later, however, Fanon went on he wants either to eradicate the colonized, or to collapse the division
to revise his criticisms of Sartre and came round to the idea that there he relies on by creating an assimilated society. The system as a result
were dangers associated with negritude's totalizing discourse. requires the colonizer to keep the colonized in a sort of limit position,
Sartre's preface to The Wretched ofthe Earth goes some way to reconcil- capable of work but paid the lowest possible wages, and this system
ing the two thinkers' versions of anti -colonial critique. First, it is impor- inevitably generates rebellion and brings the colonizer's violence back
tant that Sartre's reading of Fanon's work adds to its incendiary quality on to himself. Critique of Dialectical Reason similarly tells us that the
and reiterates its dynamic calI to arms. Sartre stresses also the necessary rebellion provoked by the colonizer's oppression mimics the violence
unity of the revolutionary people, referring in a Marxist tone to the role that he himself imposed on the native, so that the structure necessarily
of the peasantry as the radical class but calling at the same time for the becomes reciprocal. Reworking the Hegelian dialectic between master
collapsing of boundaries between intellectuals, the bourgeoisie and the and slave, Sartre shows that colonialism is not a masterful structure, but
masses. This is less the movement of a specific community than a rising one that leads necessarily to its own destruction, and one that cannot
up offorces claiming human freedom. Concomitantly, Sartre argues that maintain itself in the form on which it paradoxically relies. Once again,
what colonialism denies is the humanity ofthe colonized: "no effort will the colonizer is not assured in his position of power, but becomes poten-
be spared to liquidate their traditions, substitute our languages for theirs, tially the victim of his drive to maintain that power.
destroy their culture without giving them ours; they will be rendered Sartre concomitantly, and controversially, insists that colonial aliena-
stupid by exploitation" (Sartre 2001: 142-3). As in Fanon's work, Sartre tion is an experience that belongs to both sides, to both colonizer and
upholds a concept of an underlying humanity; the respect for which colonized. In the essay "Colonialism is a System" reprinted in Coloni-
requires also an understanding ofthe other's difference, the customs and alism and Neocolonialism, for example, Sartre provides a quick history
cultures of the colonized people. This is not the hypocritical humanism of political and economic expropriation in Algeria, and concludes by
ofEuropean Civilization, or the obfuscatory rhetoric of"liberty, equality; stressing that this is indeed a system in which both colonizer and colo-
fraternity" that props up the myth ofthe French Republic while subjugat- nized are cogs. It is not an abstract mechanism; it is one that is created by
ing its oppressed other, but a demand for the recognition of otherness. human beings, but the point is that individuals on both sides are trapped
Above all, the preface demands again the overthrow of colonialism by and determined by the system, even as they perpetuate it. As a result,
means of violence, and addresses this call to violence to the Europeans "the colonist is fabricated like the native; he is made by his function and
against whom it is directed. Sartre asserts that Fanon's text was an appeal his interests" (Sartre 2001: 44). Even as early as "Black Orpheus': the
to the colonized, but his own role is to show how this revolutionary call colonized is not oppressed by a master who knows himself and possesses
will impact on the colonizer, how it will tear him apart in just the same his own language. Sartre's discussion of colonial relations reminds the
.way as he severed the black man from himself: "the colon within each of colonizer that he too is alienated, that he possesses nothing, that he is
us is being removed in a bloody operation" (ibid.: 150). impure and non-essential. "Black Orpheus" opens with the startling
Sartre's critique also builds on Fanon, however, and can even be reminder that while the white man believed that his gaze was pure,
seen to foreshadow subsequent forms of postcolonial theory indebted that his belief systems were correct and true, the black man now throws
to poststructuralism. Sartre, like Fanon, argues more than once that that gaze back on him and shows him to be both powerless and other
colonialism is self-defeating in its very structure: it is necessarily bent to himself. Just as the white man's gaze over-determined and alienated

48 understanding postcolonialism fanon and sartre 49

the black man, the negritude poets' returning gaze in turn alters and to assimilate. The disjunction between self and language is universal,
defamiliarizes the former's self-perception: "our whiteness appears to and far from dissolving the specifics of the colonized's oppression, this
us as a strange, pale veneer that stops our skin from breathing" (Sartre universal, ethical theorization provides the basis for its concretization
1948b: ix). In addition, the negritude poets' use of the French language and politicization in the colonial context: "the master is nothing. And
twists and deforms it until the white man is alienated by it, and forced he does not have exclusive possession of anything" (Derrida 1998: 23).
to recognize that he cannot possess, contain and control it. Both the Although Sartre's comments on the colonizer in "Black Orpheus" are
white man and the black man experience a sense of non-belonging in less extensive than those ofDerrida in The Monolingualism ofthe Other,
language, a lack of self-identity, so that "there is a secret blackness to ' the argument that both sides are alienated is offered in the earlier work,
the white, and a secret whiteness to the black, a fixed flickering of being and certainly ties in with the generalized contingency of being-for-itself
and non-being" (ibid.: xxii). Neither colonizer nor colonized is secure in Sartre's Being and Nothingness (1989).
in his being, but both are confronted with traces of otherness, of their Although Sartre does predict a totalized "society without race", then,
own contingency, in their use of a language that can never be entirely his awareness of the constantly self-inventing being-for-itself stresses
their own. the infinite singularization of all beings, their disjunction from the lan-
Surprisingly, then, one of the outcomes ofSartre's revolutionary writ- guage they are constrained to use. Sartre's ideal society; conceived as the
ing is its revelation that the master, or colonizer, may claim possession of ultimate aim of the dialectic, crucially remains deferred, and although
his identity, but this is a gesture of denial, or bad faith. The experience of he wants to imagine a complete, totalized and synthetic resolution, its
alienation in language is a universal one: language separates all speak- very deferral means that his thinking finishes by positing an ongoing
ers from themselves, and what the colonial system did was doubly to process of invention in the search for that higher goal. At the end of
alienate the colonized people by forcing a foreign language on them, a "Black Orpheus" Sartre is in any case hesitant in his elucidation of the
language that the colonizer could then claim as his own. The colonized third phase of the dialectic, and although he is adamant that negritude
are forced to live in a society governed in a language that is not theirs, remains a transitory stage, his idea of synthesiS remains tentative. It is
so their alienation operates on two levels, and also becomes entrenched reminiscent of the Marxist vision of a "classless society", but is not fle-
by political inequality and oppression. On this point, Sartre comes close shed out as a goal of its own. Reading the essay, one is left with the sense
to anticipating Derrida's discussion of colonialism in the much later The that the dialectic is not a step towards totalized harmony, but rather a
Monolingualism of the Other (1998), first published in French in 1996. process that must keep moving, but that may remain indefinitely unfin-
In The Monolingualism of the Other, Derrida's initial reflection on the ished. Sartre's dialectic is not the rapid dismissal of negritude poetry,
specific experience of Algerian Jews dissolves into a discussion of our nor the promise of a naive harmony, but the argument that no stage in
universal alienation in language, together with an exploration of the the resistance process, no self-affirmation, should be allowed to freeze
author's own pursuit of a process of self-singularization. This means that into a static position and should retain a sense ofits movement beyond
both colonizer and colonized are alienated, but the colonizer denies his itself. His dialectic names an evolution and not an endpoint; it privi-
alienation and claims to possess his culture and language while enforcing leges continual reinvention rather than a finite achievement or stasis.
it on the other so as to concretize the other's dispossession. As in Sartre, Sartre succeeds in setting out a clear purpose to this process of continual
then, the crux of this is again that both colonizer and colonized are in invention, but the deferral of its endpoint, and his questioning of the
exile, and neither is able to control and possess his language, to fix both use of any label because of the proliferation of its Significations, means
his own being and that of the subordinate other. Sartre stressed in "Black that his strategy stretches beyond the concerns of immediate liberation
Orpheus" that the negritude poets forced the colonizer to experience the and into a deconstructive and ethical interrogation oflanguage, identity
sense of separation from himself that colonialism forced on the colo- and mastery.
nized. Derrida's work dwells on this universal and reciprocal alienation Sartre succeeds in offering a distinct anti-colonial standpoint and
at length, and argues that if we speak of the dispossession of the colo- proposal, and voices this with an urgency to rival that ofFanon. At the
nized, we must also remember that the colonizer, the master, is no more same time, however, he manages to collapse colonialism as a sustainable
in possession of his language than the colonized he oppresses and tries conceptual structure, to expose its delusions and myths, and in so doing

fanon and sartre 51

50 I understanding postcolonialism
he sows the seeds of a broader, deconstructive and ethical critique of its lead to the transcendence of any racial category. Fanon conceives
philosophy oflanguage and culture. He demands the immediate over- Sartre's reading as an unfair dismissal of negritude.
throw of colonialism, but also considers the weakness within the system Sartre's analysis of colonialism in Algeria emphasizes that both
itself, its self-defeating nature and its deluded collusion with a certain colonizer and colonized are victims of the colonial system. He
metaphysics of identity and linguistic possession. Closer attention to calls for the immediate dismantling of this oppressive system.
"Black Orpheus" and the other essays brings out the multiple layers Moreover, Sartre's thinking anticipates Derrida's form of post-
of Sartre's writing on colonialism: his ability to take a political stand colonial critique, in that he undermines the mastery of colonial
and to make positive proposals while criticizing the simplicity of any discourse.
"identity politics". His tone is contestatory and revolutionary, but it also
contains the seeds of a complex, meticulous deconstruction of the very
language of the colonial system, its self-defeating contortions, and the
implications of that deconstruction for the elucidation of anti -colonial
critique. From this point of view the work is an amalgam of negritude
and Hegelianism, it anticipates deconstruction, and problematizes both
the construction and maintenance of colonial power and the fraught
process of its undermining. Like that of Fanon, it offers an astonishing
combination of the most militant political polemic with a philosoph-
ical and ethical enquiry reaching far beyond the requirements of the
moment of independence.

Key points .

Fanon's work has both psychoanalytic and political dimensions.

In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon explores the psychic alienation
of the black man, his sense of splitting from himsel In response,
on the one hand Fanon affirms the black man's "negro" identity,
and on the other hand he champions the black man's belonging
to a universal humanity.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon's political denunciation of
colonialism in Algeria rests on a critique of its Manichaean struc-
ture. This divisive structure must be overthrown by means ofvio-
lence, and should give way to a completely new society. Fanon
draws on Marxism in his sketch of an anti-colonial revolution,
although he also points out the limits of Marxist thinking in this
context. Fanon affirms the importance of national culture while
elucidating the risks of its dominance by the bourgeoisie.
Sartre celebrates black poetry as a space of resistance and self-
reinvention, but he too remains ambivalent towards the affirma-
tion of black identity recommended by the negritude movement.
He stresses that negritude is only a stage in a dialectic and should

fanon and sartre 53

52 understanding postcolonialism

weakness of his compatriots in succumbing to the British and colluding

in their imposed adIninistrative system, although in fact, rather ironi-
cally, early on he himself supported some aspects ofthe British presence,
again suggesting a certain ambivalence in relations between colonizer
and colonized. Furthermore, Chatterjee notes that postcolonial India
did not transform the basic institutional arrangements of colonial law
three and administration, and although nationalism and a specific national
identity were at the time a Significant part of anti-colonial discourse,
competing versions of these already complicated any notion of a stark
Decolonization, community, nationalism:
binary between British and Indians, or between East and West. The
Gandhi, Nandy and the Subaltern movement to overthrow British colonialism was a deeply fractured and
Studies Collective ambivalent process, and leading thinkers and commentators on the
movement waver in their configuration of the relation between cul-
tural and ethnic groups (British, Hindu and Muslim) in the struggle
for power.
Gandhi was one of the most influential figures in India's emergent
If ~ano~ and Sartre's writing on colonial Manichaeism, emergent anti-colonial movement, however, and it is to him and his critics and fol-
natio~~sm .and the new humanism is clearly directed against French lowers that this chapter turns. His work has two striking features worthy
colomalism m Algeria, Mrica and the Caribbean, then the undOing of I of particular attention that set it apart from that of the thinkers already
B~tish colonialism required, at least for the major Indian anti-colonial discussed. First, he is not a nationalist philosopher and his call for resist-
~er~, a rathe.r different form of critique. French colonialism, in par- ance at no point hinges on a concept of national identity. Fanon, writ-
ticular m Algena, promoted the assimilation of the foreign territory ing of course after Gandhi and at the moment where the anti-colonial
to French control and to French culture, whereas British colonialism movement in Algeria was at its most desperate, upholds national culture
tended to privilege a form of paternalism or indirect rule. Moreover, even as he denounces the narrow vision of the bourgeoisie who risk
the conquest and contro~ of ~geria had been from beginning to end a over-determining that culture. Gandhi, however, nowhere recommends
bloody pr~cess and, despIte the French policy of assimilation, resulted in Indian nationalism, and this is both one of his unique strengths and,
repeated VIolent clashes and ongoing segregation. The French" . . for some, as we shall see, one of the possible limitations of his vision.
. 'Z' . " al mlSSlOn
C1Vl lSatrzce so produced, according to Fanon and Sartre, a disturbing Anxious to avoid homogenizing Indians and creating a false unity,
f0rn:- of racism that ~tterly .s~vered and destroyed the colonized's very Gandhi perceives home rule or "SwaraI' as a return to an independent
self-lillage. In explormg Bntish colonialism in India, thinkers such as Indian civilization, a rich conglomeration that is necessarily both vari-
~ahatma Gandhi, Ashis Nandy and Partha Chatterjee stress less strik- egated and unified. Hindus and Muslims from this point of view live
mgl~ ~e M~chaeism of the colonial vision and focus instead on its alongside one another without assuming a national identity but sharing
administrative Structures, its association with capitalism and econOlnic nevertheless a common spirit tied to their Indian past. Concomitantly,
an~ sO~ial. inequ.ality. ~~non and Sartre were also clearly virulently anti- Gandhi believed that the real conflict lay not between two nations, nor
. th. m. .therr WrItings on colonialism but' unlike these thinkers, between East and West, but between modernity and tradition. His anti-
m err WrIting on India Gandhi and the others do not conceive the colonialism is a reclaiming not of a national culture but of an intricate
shortco~g~ of th~ European econOlnic and political system as related! web of customs and beliefs opposed to the individualist, competitive
to such a diStinct bmary opposition between colonizer and native. spirit of modern civilization and capitalislll.
Indeed: one of ~dhi's persistent preoccupations was why the British Secondly, while Fanon specifically advocates violence, Gandhi's strat-
had coloruzed India or, more precisely, why the Indians had apparently egy is that of non-violence. Fanon argues that the overthrow of a colo-
surrendered the control of their territory to them. Gandhi lamented the nial system predicated on violence requires that the same violence be

54 understanding postcolonialism
decolonization, community, nationalism 55
turned back against the colonizer, but Gandhi will not condone violence search for self-knowledge and internal harmony derived in part, and at
of any sort and recommends a form of passive resistance. The use of times rather problematically; from Hindu tenets and the Bhagavad Gita.
violence is entirely incompatible with Gandhi's belief in the traditional It is for this reason that Gandhi's methods were rigorously ethical, and
Indian spirit, and is necessarily complicit with the mastery, individual- foreclosed any possibility of domination and mastery over the otheL His
ism and destructiveness that Swaraj sets out to eradicate. The concept of strategies of non-cooperation and non-violence worked against both
non-violence, and its practical manifestation in acts ofpassive resistance the practical policies of the British system and its underlying pitting
or civil disobedience, mutates throughout Gandhi's career, a mutation of self against other, its individualist ends. Chatterjee and the historio-
that testifies to the thinker's tentativeness in recommending a clear set graphical thinkers of the Subaltern Studies Collective develop and build
of policies in the fight against the inequality imposed by the British. on the political analysis of decolonization and nationalism, while the
The aim of Gandhi's evolving philosophy of non-violence nevertheless celebrated postcolonial critic Homi Bhabha, discussed in Chapter 4,
rests on the :fum credence that violence ultimately begets more violence; retracts from the political in favour of ethics and cultural criticism.
even if it succeeds in its goals it creates a precedent and encourages the I' Nandy, not unlike Fanon, ignores this dichotomy and discusses colonial-
belief that violence can be justified as a means to an end. Conversely, ~ ism in India, and Gandhi's work, in terms of politics, psychology and
the strategy of non-violence or passive resistance disquiets the onlooker, representation. More than anyone, however, it is Gandhi who explicitly
destabilizes the position of those in power and crystallizes the systems i refuses to divorce his practical from his spiritual goals and was prepared
injustices. It makes it difficult for the oppressor to react, since further i to face the inconsistencies that this fusion nevertheless brought.
violence blatantly appears morally unjustifiable whereas the decision ~
to take no action weakens the oppressor's image of power. The difficul-
ties of this vision will be discussed later, but certainly it is important Mahatma Gandhi
to recognize the strength and significance of Gandhi's strategy of non-
cooperation as an alternative form of anti -colonial critique to that of Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1869 at Porbandar, Gujarat,
the more militant and aggressive Fanon. Gandhi later became known as "Mahatma" or "Great Soul" as a result
If Fanon was a revolutionary political philosopher whose work had of his achievements as leader of the independence movement in India.
ethical undertones, Gandhi, with his critique of violence, conceived Despite his renown, however, he was himself uncomfortable with the
politics and ethics or morality as inextricably bound together. Once adulation expressed by his followers and with his position as a figure
again, if later critics of colonialism in India have become polarized in ;: of authority. He also stressed repeatedly that his philosophy did not
their privileging of either ethics or politics, Gandhi himself made no ,~ amount to "Gandhism: to any specific or fixed agenda, and, indeed, it
such choice and presented his highly political objectives as infused with ~i is clear that his thinking mutates throughout his career in response to
an awareness of moral obligation. Critical of Marx, Gandhi neverthe- ~ the historical changes he witnesses. Furthermore, Gandhi was in no way
less draws on his denunciation of capitalist inequality, and his battles an abstract thinker but was deeply committed to political action, and
revolved precisely around real economic issues including the laws deter- his writings often took the form of scattered musings or glosses on his
mining the activities of the peasants, or the excessive salt tax that he militant activities. He admired simplicity and set out to work closely
marched against in 1930. His call for an independent India was also a with the people; he was committed to making his beliefs concrete and
direct rejection of the British government's imposition of a competitive meaningful to India's victims - the exploited, the weak and the poor. It
market where the rich lined their own pockets at the expense of the is difficult, then, to systematize his thinking and to create a unified body
exploited and the poor. Yet at the same time, Gandhi repeatedly used out of his work. He offers no single anti-colonial philosophy but a series
a moralizing vocabulary; designating colonialism as "evil': as well as of observations and experimental methods of critique.
"corrupt" and "diseased': and the fight for Indian civilization was above Gandhi's militant career began when he was working as a lawyer
all in defence of his people's spirit of integrity and equability. Independ- in South Africa. He himself experienced racial discrimination, and
ence from British rule was also inseparable from personal freedom and :} began campaigning against the mistreatment of Indians soon after his
the full realization of the human self. It involved a spiritual project, a arrival in the country in 1894. He founded the Natal Indian Congress,

56 understanding postcolonialism decolonization, community, nationalism 57

an organization that set out to fight anti-Indian racial Iaws. Never- Modem concepts of civil liberty and equality are certainly admirable for
theless, he assisted the British during the Boer War by working as a Gandhi, but the greed of rampant capitalism is not, and at the heart of
stretcher-bearer, and at this stage he supported the colonial power even modem civilization lies the flawed premise that "people living in it make
as he became aware of its injustices. Also during his time in South bodily welfare the obj ect oflife" (Gandhi 1997: 35). This prioritization of
Africa, Gandhi wrote frequently for the newspaper Indian Opinion and material comfort in turn means that men "are enslaved by the temptation
gradually shaped his views on the evils not so much of colonialism of money and ofthe luxuries that money can buy" (ibid.: 36). They ignore
but of modem civilization, as well as on the techniques necessary for both morality and spirituality, lack strength and courage, and :find them-
its undermining. He formally adopted the term "satyagraha': which selves isolated from one another. Concomitantly, India suffers because
designates the power of truth, love and non-violence, and which also it is ''being ground down not under the English heel but under that of
involves a variety of concrete acts of resistance and civil disobedience. modem civilisation" (ibid.: 42). Technological advancements brought
Frequently imprisoned as a result of his militancy, Gandhi nevertheless on by the British have contributed only to Indias suffering. Railways, for
lobbied relentlessly for his cause and continued to organize campaigns example, served only to spread plague and, furthermore, Gandhi argues
and marches as a means of expressing protest. He returned to India in that they actually helped to harden Indias internal divisions. Later in
1915 and began his work defending and speaking up for his disadvan- the text, Gandhi similarly laments the effects of modem machinery, the
taged compatriots. He applied tIle principles of satyagraha in a series dreadful working conditions offactory employees and the destruction of
of disputes, settling the grievances of indigo workers in Champaran traditional methods ofproduction. Indians can produce their own cloth,
and the textile workers' strike in Ahmedabad. He lead a movement of their own goods, by means that eschew the cruelty ofmodem civilization.
peaceful resistance against the Rowlatt Bills of 1919, which proposed Ultimately, the British obsession with commercial selfishness is a form
severe measures to deal with terrorism, and even contributed to the pan- of violence and vanity that negates even their own spirit of Christian-
Islamic Khilafat movement in the same year. He also fasted repeatedly, ity. Their colonial project was the worst and :final manifestation of this
notably in protest against the Indian caste system and the mistreatment aggressive and exploitative drive.
of the untouchables. Nevertheless, when in 1922 the non-cooperation Gandhi's thought is related to that of Marx in its denunciation of capi-
movement got out ofhand and a number ofIndian policemen were mas- talism. Gandhi argues against the capitalist concept of private property,
sacred as a result of civil disobedience, Gandhi was deeply saddened and for he believes that there is no inherent reason why one man should
revised his understanding of satyagraha in order to stress its necessarily claim exclusive ownership of the fruits of his labour. The good func-
peaceful nature. Another of Gandhi's Significant achievements was the tioning of society depends on cooperation and on self-sacrifice, and
salt satyagraha of 1930: a two-hundred-mile march against the tax that the capitalist drive towards private ownership undermines this need
the British Raj had placed on salt. The movement was also, however, a for sharing. Gandhi also believes that capitalism dehumanizes its work-
broader statement of protest against the British presence and became a ers, requiring them to work in unacceptable conditions and breeding
significant moment in the move towards independence. Gandhi went discontent and aggression among them. This emphatically does not,
on to launch the Quit India movement in 1942 ahead of Indian inde- however, make Gandhi a Marxist; indeed, he vilifies communism as
pendence, and partition, in 1947. much as he does capitalism. Communism is also based on material-
This is a highly cursory summary of Gandhfs activities, but these ism, according to Gandhi; it occludes the people's spiritual needs and
moments need to be noted for their influence on his evolving philosophy. inflates the power of the state. Moreover, while Marx lamented the slow
At the centre of this is his far-reaching critique of modem civilization, pace of change in India, this link with the past and with tradition is, for
expounded above all in Hind Swaraj, a series ofcomments and reflections Gandhi, his country's strength. So Gandhi shares with Marx a disgust
written in ten days during his return from England to South Africa in for the avaricious drive of capitalism and a belief in the necessity of
1909. If there is any seminal text in Gandhi's corpus it is this one, since its destruction, but conceives an alternative Indian society in starkly
it is here that he elaborates most succinctly on the philosophy behind contrasting terms.
the call for Swaraj, or home rule. It is not Englishmen themselves that Gandhi believes that the British came to India only in search of
he vilifies, but the evil and selfishness promoted by modern civilization. material gain, and a new market for their goods. Indians, however, were

58 understanding postcolonialism decolonization, community, nationalism 59

seduced into colluding with the imposition of this modern civilization, Gandhi's call, in his move towards a demand for independence, is in this
and it is in this collusion that they forget their traditions and their past. way directed to all Indians, and part of his endeavour is to abolish caste
They ignore the spiritual teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the path of distinctions and internal inequalities. He also, like Fanon, addresses
self-purification and self-sacrifice, and the relinquishment of short- the masses; he wants to call the attention of the people, and not an elite
term, self-serving goals. They forget their communal spirit and the native bourgeoisie who would risk once again oppressing and speaking
moral necessity that each man look after the other. In a series of stark in the place of the peasants. Gandhi similarly seeks to reconcile divi-
oppositions, Gandhi opposes this ethical spirit to the greed of modern sions between rural and urban cultures. A return to Indian civilization
civilization in order to champion Indian integrity: "the tendency of would entail the handing over of the land to the people and the aban-
Indian civilisation is to propagate the moral being, that of the Western donment of inegalitarian, divisive economic and political structures.
civilisation is to propagate immorality. The latter is godless, the former is '. Of course, the difficulty with Gandhi's belief in unity is that it seeks
based on a belief in God" (ibid.: 71). Moving swiftly and deftly between to deny real and painful divisions between Muslims and Hindus, which
ethics and politics, moreover, Gandhi takes the spinning wheel as a escalated to reach an apotheosis during the conflicts leading up to
symbol of India's traditional spirit, and uses it to represent a refusal of partition. By 1946 India was enmeshed in a civil war, inaugurated in
the machinery of Western civilization. The spinning wheel stands for an earnest by the Great Calcutta Killing in August of that year. Having
ethical means of production free from the denigrating and dehuman- tried previously to ignore the rupture that was tearing India apart, by
izing effects of industrialization on a large scale. Gandhi argues that in 1947 Gandhi was gravely troubled by the growing violence, visited the
adopting the spinning wheel, Indians "declare that we have no inten- I city and resolved to fast. While Hindu protestors initially saw Gandhi's
tion of exploiting any nation, and we also end exploitation of the poor attempts to make peace with Muslims as an act of betrayal, in the end his
by the rich" (ibid.: 167). The restoration of such traditional modes of powers of persuasion worked, and, indeed, on the day India became an
production is both a vigorous statement in defiance of capitalism and independent nation the city remained surprisingly peaceful. The calm
an ethical promise to end the rule of the guiding values of selfishness was short-lived, but Gandhi continued to believe in reconciliation and in
and avarice. the powers of satyagraha to achieve his aims. Ifhe did succeed in healing
Perhaps most disturbingly, the imposition of modern civilization some rifts between Muslims and Hindus, however, Gandhi's philosophy
divided a country that Gandhi stresses had previously been able to live was inevitably rooted in the Hindu religion and culture, and critics have
peacefully. India's plurality and diversity is part of its richness; it is a vast observed that his rhetoric of unity sat uneasily with his highly particu-
and protean civilization and not a unified nation, but the differences 1arized use of the Bhagavad Gita. At the same time, he was moving
between, for example, Muslims and Hindus are perceived by Gandhi further and further away from an engagement with the economic and
to be mutually nOurishing. Noting in Hind Swaraj that they have long historical roots of the conflict and glossed over the politics of the rift
since ceased to fight, Gandhi argues that "religions are different roads with a spiritualism ill equipped to deal with its complexity.
converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take differ- Gandhi's conception of a unified and spiritual Indian civilization
ent roads, so long as we reach the same goal?" (ibid.: 53). Gandhi also is complemented by a series of multifaceted and mutating concepts
wrote about the confrontation with British colonialism and the move that require further elucidation. The first of these is undoubtedly sat-
towards independence as a statement of unity, where Indian civilization yagraha, a term that I have already used a number of times to describe
was united against the oppressor. He notes: Gandhi's non-violent methods of resistance. Etymologically, it comes
from "satya': meaning truth, and "agraha': a form of insistence without
more and more, as they realize that amid differences of creed obstinacy. Initially it is related to passive resistance, although Gandhi
and caste is one basic nationality, does agitation spread and rejects this term quite quickly, first because he argues that it was asso-
take the form of definite demands for the fulfilment of the ciated with a dangerous and potentially destructive form of contesta-
solemn assurance of the British Government that they should tion, with a "preparation" for violence, and secondly because for him
be given the ordinary rights of British subjects. it actually implies weakness. It is nevertheless noteworthy that passive
(Gandhi 1962: 101) resistance is a concept used by Levinas, in a very different context, to

60 understanding postcolonialism decolonization, community, nationalism 61

describe the encounter with the face and the resistance of the other to is the establishment of an Indian spirituality that combines affirmation
the self's desired power and mastery. Gandhi's thought is much more against the British with a belief in sharing, community and the sacrifice
politically oriented than that of Levinas, but his notion of resistance does of the self before the other. Swaraj is at the same time inconceivable
contain this vision of an ultimately moral confrontation between a being without "swadeshi': or community: "the principle of relying on the prod-
that believes itself to be masterful and the raw and naked suffering of ucts of India rather than foreign goods" (quoted in Dalton 1993: 249).
the other. The concept of satyagraha, if it is not quite passive resistance Swadeshi names the attachment to the land and to the environment that
in Gandhi's view, is, moreover, at once an affirmation of strength and a Gandhi champions in his call for the restoration of Indian civilization,
deeply ethical embrace of the virtues of love and charity. Satyagraha is and it implies not only political autonomy but also cultural and moral
an active form of opposition, committed to non-violence, but bold and i independence and cohesion. The call for independence in this way has
affirmative in its claims for what is right. The satyagrahi is not afraid, profound spiritual and moral consequences, drawn from this deep-
but promotes "self-help, self-sacrifice and faith in God" in his pursuit , rooted adherence to community, integrity and truth.
of justice and freedom (Gandhi 1962: 80). He is prepared to suffer and Gandhi's philosophy is deeply politicized in its direct engagement
to use his suffering as a tool to achieve the ends to which he remains with the masses, with specific injustices and with the Indian National
committed, and, in turn, it is his suffering that shames the oppressor Congress and its movement towards independence. Yet the depth and
and reminds him of the evil of which he is the cause. The power of complexity ofhis core concepts implies a thinking that stretches beyond
satyagraha comes from strength of will, which is always far superior the practical and the immediate, and that speaks not just to Indians but
to the power exerted by brute force. Satyagraha as a form of truth is to humanity more broadly. Like Fanon and Sartre, Gandhi retains a
also complemented by "ahimsa': the rule of non-violence as an agent strong concept of a common humanity, distinct from any Eurocentric
of change, and this concretizes the demands made by the former term. humanism and unrelated to the obfuscatory notion of "human nature':
Ahimsa is again both a personal notion, bound up with self-will and but important as an ethical category. Again like Fanon and other anti-
self-sacrifice, and a political tool, manifested by fasting and marching, colonial thinkers such as Memmi, Gandhi rails against colonialism,
or in practical movements of civil disobedience. This disobedience must or its imposition of modern civilization, because of its dehumanizing
remain peaceful, however, and disturbed by the violence that did emerge tendencies, and he uses the term "human" to advocate the crucial rec-
in 1922, Gandhi was increasingly at pains to stress the necessity for its ognition of the other. For Gandhi humanity is unified and indivisible,
careful planning. and a proper understanding of the human requires respect for and
Satyagraha is conceived as the key method in the pursuit of Swaraj, attention to other humans, and the refusal of exploitation and degra-
or home rule. Although Gandhi applied it to his protests against the dation. This unity is not the same as similarity, and does not obstruct
caste system and the violence between Muslims and Hindus, it was con- Gandhi's pluralism, but establishes a common foundation on which
ceived around the time of Hind Swaraj as part of the necessary return to individuals construct mutual respect. As a result, the call for freedom
Indian (Hindu?) values and traditions. In campaigning for Swaraj, for applies not only to India but to all peoples: "the spirit of political and
example, Gandhi stresses "my Swaraj will not be a bloody usurpation of international liberty is universal and, it may even be said, instinctive.
rights, but the acquisition of power will be a beautiful and natural fruit No race appreciates a condition of servitude or subjection to a con-
of duty well and truly performed" (ibid.: 171). This Swaraj is, moreover, quering or alien race" (Gandhi 1962: 102). Gandhi's aim is at the same
an equally complex concept comprising multiple layers. First, it is the time greater than independence, as he seeks "to deliver the so-called
direct and urgent call for the withdrawal of the British from India. Yet weaker races of the earth from the crushing heels of Western civilisa-
this withdrawal is not just a political demand for decolonization but an tion" (ibid.: 164). This universalist strand certainly creates difficulties
aspiration to reclaim Indian civilization and to return it to its traditional for Gandhi's readers, as the sweeping rhetoric moves a long way from
values and customs. Secondly, then, Swaraj names not only political the more pressing political goals of his work, and the breadth of his
home rule but "self-rule": it connotes the freedom of the individual to references, from Plato and Socrates to Tolstoy and Ruskin, obscures
create himself according to his own principles while sacrificing himself his immediate objectives. Indeed, the resistance to Western civilization
to others. Gandhi argues that home-rule is self-rule or self-control: it is couched in terms that are still unavoidably inflected with Hinduism

62 understanding postcoionialism decoionization, community, nationalism 63

and with India's specific past in ways that are clearly objectionable to postcolonial intellectuals he was not educated outside India, and ~so
Muslims. This combination of the specific with the universal lacks the does not hold a post in a university department. He has for a long time
elegance with which Fanon elaborates his dialectic between negritude been associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in
and the new humanism, partly because Gandhi's very language is bound New Delhi, but his work does not sit comfortably within the boundaries
up in a spiritual tradition that it claims to be able to transcend. It is this of a single academic discipline. His writing style is elliptical, punchy but
ethical ambition, however, that lifts his work into the realm of philoso- at times allusive, and although he has been hugely influential within
phy and that continues to influence postcolonial thought many decades India, his work has tended to be somewhat under-explored in Western
after his assassination 1948. postcolonial circles. Although he has spoken out on a diversity ~f issues,
Gandhi's thought was nonetheless mired in other problems that he ranging from nationalism in India to the use of psychoanalysIs ill South
struggled to resolve. In her essay "Concerning Violence': Leela Gandhi Asia, it is his thinking on colonialism and its aftermath that is most cele-
asserts that Gandhi's ethics, unlike that of Levinas, is totalizing, and does brated and that will form the focus of this section. His approach to these
not leave space for contingency. The Levinasian encounter cannot be questions is provocative and unique, his militant style contrastin? wi~
subsumed into totality and is conceived only in terms of the immediacy his refusal of empiricism and his innovative use of psychoanalySIs. His
of the face-to-face encounter, but Gandhi's demand for universal love language is nevertheless not abstract and theoretical but dedicated, like
actually deflects the other's appeal for proximity (1. Gandhi 1997: 109). that of Gandhi, to local culture and folkloric tradition, and it is through
Commentators such as Bhikhu Parekh also, while sympathetically expli- this eclecticism that he creates a new and distinct form ofhybridization
cating Gandhi's philosophy, express concern about his uncompromising between postcolonial politics and ethics.
embrace of suffering, since its precise effects are difficult to trace and it Nandy's best-known work, The Intimate Enemy, opens with the bold
borders at times on a form of ritualism. Equally, Young has commented claim that modern colonialism "colonizes minds in addition to bodies"
on the potential hypocrisy of Gandhi's self-image, which was highly (1983: xi). Although the statement contains echoes ofthe Kenyan Ngugi
mediatized and broadly disseminated, despite his critique of modern Wa Thiong'o's Decolonising the Mind published in 1986, it announces
technology. Leela Gandhi and others have also criticized Gandhi's vision more particularly a psychoanalytic understanding of colonialism as
of female agency, since, while helping women to contribute to satya- damaging in its effects on both the colonizer and the colonized's self-
graha and Swaraj, these concepts allow them to do so only within their perception, and on their understanding ofthe relation between India and
traditional role in the family. Perhaps most troublingly, Gandhi's latter the West. Indeed, Nandynotes at the outset that even Fanon, from whose
withdrawal from the political makes his vision of postcolonial India psychological approach he draws many insights, writes his critique in a
highly questionable. Adhering to principles of satyagraha and Swaraj, style inherited from Sartre, with the result that "the West has not merely
Gandhi refuses to contemplate the formation of a modern Indian state, produced modern colonialism, it informs most interpretations of colo-
even if this was what his nation urgently required. His inspirational nialism" (1983: xii). Colonialism infiltrates the ways in which both colo-
capacity derives much more from the ethics embedded in his strategy nizer and colonized express themselves and corrupts even the process of
for resistance than from his model of postcoloniality. forming a strategy for resistance. Nandy goes on to argue that the ideol-
ogy of colonialism was in operation well before the full institutio~ of e u:
Raj, as well as after its demise, and that this ideologypropa~ates Itself ~
Ashis Nandy two ways: via codes that shape the cultural practices ofboth SIdes, and VIa
a series of insidious strategies for managing and controlling dissent (for
Nandy is a leading Indian intellectual, a follower and critic of Gandhi, example the systems failure to recognize the violence it inflicts on the
who develops the work of his forerunner precisely by conceiving of I colonized). The psychology of colonialism is also expressed through the
anti-colonialism and postcoloniality together. A self-proclaimed Marx- ideology's fusion of sexual and political dominance, an effect that devel-
ist, Nandy's distinction, however, is that his reading of colonialism oped through the nineteenth century. Indians were conceived acc~rding
and postcolonialism is not historicist but psychological. A constant . to the British idea ofthe martial races: "the hyper-masculine, manifestly
dissenter, Nandy is also difficult to pigeonhole; unlike many Indian courageous, superbly loyal Indian castes and subcultures mirroring the

64 understanding postc%nia/ism dec%nization, community, nationalism 65

British middle-class sexual stereotypes" (ibid.: 7). This image of mas- pathologies find a response in the work of Rudyard Kipling, who equates
culinity served both to prop up colonial prejudice and to encourage the savage with childishness, and, conversely, in George Orwell, whose
colonized subjects to act as "counterplayers of the rulers according to critiques of totalitarianism reveal the entrapment of the oppressor as
the established rules" (ibid.: 11). This sexualization of the native clearly well as the oppressed. Another type of response included that of Oscar
recalls Fanon's discussion of the stereotypical virility of the black man, Wilde, whose transgressive sexuality functioned as a way to threaten
although Nandywill go on to explore counter-examples in thinkers such the basic premises of the British colonial attitude.
as Gandhi in a way that Fanon does not. It is on Gandhi that Nandy dwells at greatest length, however, and
A second stereotype informing the psychology of colonialism for it is in his reading of Gandhi's response to colonialism that Nandy
Nandy is that of the childlike quality of the native. This critique leads envisages the troubled emergence of another culture, another India.
. Nandyto denounce Marx's vision of progress as complicit with colonial Part of Gandhi's subversive quality stems, for Nandy, from his use of
ideology; since Marx goes so far as to claim that "whatever may have Western, indeed Christian, references. Gandhi also set out to liberate
been the. crime of England she was the unconscious tool of history" both the British and the Indians from colonialism, and he achieved
(quoted ill Nandy 1983: 13). European intellectuals were able in this this by troubling the Western belief in the superiority of masculinity:
way to describe colonialism as an evil, but a necessary one, since it first by positing the transcendence of both femininity and masculinity
worked to the benefit of the uncivilized and barbarian natives who could at the top of the hierarchy, and secondly by privileging femininity. In
~earn from the knowledge of their superior Western counterparts. This this way "activism and courage could be liberated from aggressiveness
Ideology seeps into primitivist images of the noble savage in need of and recognized as perfectly compatible with womanhood, particularly
management and reform. Oddly, however, this myth was at the same maternity" (ibid.: 54). In response to the colonial belief in progress, and
time countered by that of India as aged, clinging to a heroic past but the figuration of the native as childlike, Gandhi again reversed the hier-
degraded and past its peak. Nandy recalls that in the view of the colo- archical structure and conceived myth as superior to history. History
nizer, "like a sinful man Indian culture was living througlI a particularly was also not an official, sanctioned and monologic discourse but made
debilitating senility" (ibid.: 18). up of the subjective recollections of the people: "public consciousness
Another ofNandy's innovations in The Intimate Enemy is his argu- was not seen as a causal product of history but as related to history
ment that the colonizer too is damaged by colonialism. While Sartre non-causally through memories and anti-memories" (ibid.: 57). Nandy
had already stressed that both colonizer and colonized were cogs in the goes on to argue that Gandhi reversed the progressivist schema of the
system, in Nandy's work this observation is developed by an exploration development from child to adult by using a language of continuity with
of the systems perverse psychic effects on the colonizing mind. Nandy the past, together with a language of self-understanding, which would
observes, for example, that during the colonial period intellection and come before the attempt to understand the other. Both approaches are
introspection were conceived as feminine traits secondary in impor- antithetical to modem colonial thinking and reverse its destructive
tance to the dominant social values of competition and productivity. , effects. The difficulty; as we have seen, is that Gandhi lays himself open
At the same time, colonialism made British people believe in a false to charges of ahistoricism, but his achievement, according to Nandy, is
cultural homogeneity among their own people, since those who did nonetheless that his languages "gave societies the option of chOOSing
not conform were packed o~ to the colonies. Next Nandy asserts that their futures here and now" (ibid.: 62).
colonialism brought the "isolation of cOgnition from affect - which Nandy's emergent argument is that India must conceive itself in dif-
often is the trigger for the 'banal' violence of our times - and ... a ferent terms from those imposed by the colonizer: that the goal must
new patholOgical fit between ideas and feelings" (ibid.: 34). Colonial- be the achievement of another India. This India would not have to
ism was in this sense not merely a political theory but a vast ethical, choose between East and West, and it would be neither modem nor
~uasi-religious belief, reinforced in turn by technology. Finally; colonial- anti-modern, but defined by its own composite terms. India cannot
Ism had the pernicious effect of deluding colonizers into believing that reject the West, for in doing so it rejects some of its own traditions, but
the~ were o.~potent: the British would be able not only to conquer must work its European influences into its own traditions to create a new
foreIgn terntones but to found new forms of self-consciousness. These pluralist yet self-conscious identity. In Nandy's terms, Gandhi's ethnic

66 understanding postcolonialism
decolonization, community, nationalism 67
universalism "takes into account the colonial experience, including the postcolonial India were constructed either from a colonial perspective,
immense suffering colonialism brought, and builds out of it a maturer, or from the point of view of a native bourgeois elite, and the histori-
more contemporary, more self-critical version of Indian traditions" ans themselves tried to fill in the gaps and expose the peasants' own
(ibid.: 75). Furthermore, ingeniously blending Fanon with Gandhi, views and experiences at the mercy of both the capitalist system and the
Nandy describes Indias split self-image: the psychological disjunction emerging nation state. It is perhaps with the emergence of the Subal-
between the colonizer's imposed image and the native's perception of tern Studies Group, moreover, that postcolonial studies began to divide
his or her culture's traditions. Less divorced from the political in his between an emphasis on the political and the economic, and a more
psychoanalytic reflections than Fanon, Nandy uncovers the emergence self-conscious pursuit of the ethical. Despite their focus on historiog-
of that split image through celebrated writers and thinkers, and links it raphy and therefore writing, thinkers such as Guha, Chatterjee and
with Gandhfs deployment of notions of traditional Indian civilization in Chakrabarty are highly politicized in their approach. They are steeped
his very methods of resistance. As a culmination of this analysis, Nancy in Marx, although critical of his methods, and they also uncover the
then criticizes myths of a wholly authentic India as either martial or complicity between power and knowledge, and reveal how economic
spiritual, and argues for a vision of a "non-heroic': trans-cultural, trans- oppression is directly mirrored by the suppression of the voice. As we
gendered conglomeration of influences. A precursor to Bhabha in this shall see in Chapter 4, Bhabha conversely pursues the psychoanalytic
.vision ofhybridity; Nandy's proposal is also more rigorously constructed approach proposed by Nandy, while Spivak, partly involved with Sub-
through his readings of colonial and anti-colonial psychological affects altern Studies, endeavours to bridge the division. The historians of the
and tropes, and it is out ofthese interweaving readings that he advocates journal itself, however, precisely condemn the less political aspects of
his particular experimental, cultural blend. This affirmation, moreover, Gandhfs vision, and they steer postcolonialism away from Nandy's psy-
deftly knits together political, psychoanalytical and ethical critique, as chology and ethics back to a militant form of historicism.
Nandy concludes by observing, "knowledge without ethics is not so Guhas manifesto in the opening issue of Subaltern Studies boldly
much bad ethics as inferior knowledge" (ibid.: 113). sketches the journal's radical objectives. Guha argues that the histori-
ography of Indian nationalism has been dominated by both colonial
and bourgeois-nationalist elitism, and that both of these are ideolOgical
The Subaltern Studies Collective by-products of British rule in India. The colonial elitist form of history
presents Indian nationalism as the sum of activities and ideas by which
Nandy's The Intimate Enemy was produced at around the same time the Indian hegemonic class responded to the colonial establishment.
that a group of Indian academics inaugurated another approach, char- The bourgeoiS elitist version defines Indian nationalism as an "idealist
acterized this time by a focus on historiography. The Subaltern Studies venture in which the indigenous elite led the people from subjugation
Collective is a group of historians similarly focused on colonialism and to freedom" (Guha 1982: 2). The problem with these two approaches is
postcolonialism in India and drawing not infrequently on Gandhi, but that they fail to address how the Indian masses conceived and created
committed above all to a critique of how the history of India has been their own nationalism. The agency of the peasantry in reassessing and
written. Founded by Guha in 1982, Subaltern Studies was an annual reconfiguring its position in relation to the state was merely perceived
publication of historiographical essays, with frequent contributions by as a problem of law and order by the colonialists, and the bourgeois
intellectuals such as Chatterjee and Dipesh Chakrabarty; whose object- nationalists in turn believed that the peasants only participated in the
ive' in contrast to Nandy's psychoanalytic approach, was to rewrite the nationalist movement under the direction of their own narrow and
political history of colonial India from the point of view of the people. hierarchical structures ofleadership. Guha concludes that the role of the
The term "subaltern" was taken from Gramsci, and referred to those journal will be to explore both the conditions of the exploitation of the
"of inferior rank": in this case, the disenfranchised peasantry exploited masses and the workings of the people's autonomous political agency.
by the colonists and deprived at the same time of a voice with which Guhas histOriographical critique has three strands, all of which shape
to express their response to their condition. The mission of the journal the remit of the journal and which come together in the three essays
was to point out the ways in which historical texts on colonial and reprinted in his Dominance without Hegemony (1997). The first of these

68 understanding postcoionialism decoionization, community, nationalism 69

is the argument against what he conceives as the universalizing tendency in ibid.: 139). Guha goes on to describe this conflict as a further mani-
of capital (Guha 1997: 4). Guha uses Marx to denounce capitalism's drive festation of the gap between elitist and subaltern politics and asserts:
to create a world market and to subjugate every moment of production
to the broader system of exchange-value. Reading Marx's Grundrisse Gandhi's theory of leadership amounted thus to a formula
(1973), Guha shows how Marx rails against this univeralizing tendency to dissolve the immediacy of mobilization in the subaltern
by exposing the uneven progress of material development across the domain, and open up a space for the nationalist elite to step in
world, but laments that readers have tended to focus rather blindly on with its own will, initiative, and organization in order to pilot
this universalist drive rather than on its limits and insufficiencies. In the political activity of the masses towards goals set up by the
Guha's words, "historiography has got itself trapped in an abstract uni- bourgeoisie. (Ibid.: 143)
versalism thanks to which it is unable to distinguish between the ideal
of capital's striving towards self-realization and the reality of its failure to Guha demands in the place of Gandhi's elitist and bourgeOiS leadership
do so" (1997: 19). The result of this error is that historiographers assume renewed attention to the masses' own processes of self-mobilization.
that capitalism was successfully instituted in India, and that it overcame The final element in Guha's critique of Indian historiography is the
the obstacles posed by the colonized on the path to colonialism and self- exposition of the interplay between power and knowledge. We shall
expansion. They mistake dominance for hegemony, in that they believe see in Chapter 4 how this fusion is theorized at length by Foucault,
that Indians accepted the imposition of capital without resistance, and but Guha's analysis draws on Foucault to explore from a practical and
forget the agency of the masses in contesting the dominant structures empirical point of view the colonial state's mission to prop up its posi-
imposed on them from above. Chakrabarty articulates a similar objec- tion of mastery by means of the dissemination of knowledge. Guha
tion to the use of Marxist critique in studies of India, and asserts bitterly begins by revealing how in the early, formative phase of the colonial
that in Marx's own discussion of universalism in Capital, "for <capital' state, officials were perturbed by their lack of understanding of local
or <bourgeois: I submit, read <Europe''' (1992: 4). Marx himself was not agriculture. In response the East India Company set out to inform itself
a historicist but a conceptual political thinker, and the difficulty of his about the character and value of landed property, expressly so as to
work, according to ChakI-abarty, is that it has lent itself to misappropria- command the natives who worked on it. Early officials set out "to his-
tion in contexts such as that of colonial dominance in India. toricize the Indian past" (Guha 1997: 163), but they did so by means of
Secondly, Guha argues that the bourgeois leaders of the national- their own European historiographical methods and in order to impose
ist movement also mistook dominance for hegemony and erroneously their own administrative system more effectively. Concomitantly, the
stressed their unifying power over the masses mobilized against the British went on to extend their power by means of education, which,
colonial regime. The Swadeshi movement set out to unite the people far from emancipating the natives, "was deSigned to harness the native
in the drive towards independence, but for Guha this claim was elitist mind to the new state apparatus as a cheap but indispensable carrier of
in that it suggested that "mobilization was the handiwork of prophets, its administrative burden" (ibid.: 167). This led also to the spread of the
patriarchs, and other inspirational leaders alone and [implied that] the use of English, so that the language became a symbol of power and a
mobilized were no more than an inert mass shaped by a superior will" source of prestige. The imposition of English on educated Indians cut
(1997: 103). The rhetoric surrounding this claim was also abstract them off from their own languages and from their own past. The British
because it ignored the real tension between force and consent on which then in turn learned the native languages so as to harness these too to
the movement relied. This is a dissimulation of which, according to the construction of the colonial state apparatus.
Guha, Gandhi himself was guilty. In the non-cooperation campaign If Guha was the founder of Subaltern Studies, Partha Chatterjee was
of 1920-22, Gandhi distinguished between social and political boy- one ofits best-known contributors. Chatterjee's work is similarly Marx-
cott, and he argued that sanctions, for example on medical care, were ist, and his major contribution to postcolonialism has been his expan-
a form of social boycott and were immoral. Gandhi was enraged by sion of Guha's critique of nationalism in India into a sophisticated and
these sorts of activities, and frequently described the people engaged far-reaching exposition of nationalism's paradoxes and shortcomings.
in them as "'unmanageable, 'uncontrollable, 'undisciplined'" (quoted Chatterjee's Nationalist Thought in the Postcolonial World (in Chatterjee

70 understanding postcolonialism decolonization, community, nationalism 71

1999) is both a philosophical dissection of nationalism and a specific movement, and he had no theory for its political execution. The upshot
and politicized account ofits deficiencies in the Indian context and, once was once again that his vision of the nation was distanced from the
again, in the thought of Gandhi. The first part of the text explores the people on whose participation it nevertheless depended.
fundamental paradox of Eastern nationalism: it imitates in its structure Chatterjee continues to explore the multiple facets of India's prob-
a ''Western'' mode of thinking even though its purpose is to establish a lematic nationalism, and he locates in Nehru's attempt to invent a sov-
distinction between colonial culture and the specific traditions of the ereign nation state an ongoing, residual failure to incorporate into that
native, colonized community. Chatterjee sifts through the work of a state the life of the nation it governs. Chatterjee's subsequent work The
number of historians of nationalism, including the influential thought Nation in Fragments (in Chatterjee 1999) develops the critique of the
of Benedict Anderson on the invention of the nation as an ideological colonial state, together with that of the bourgeois nationalist vision, and
construction (executed, for example, by the development of print lan- explores the fragmentary narrative also of the nation's pasts before colo-
guages), and uncovers in each case a more or less hidden Eurocentric nialism. Chatterj ee equally Significantly identifies the troubled position
agenda Next, he identifies a split between the "thematic" ofnationalism, of women in nationalist narratives. Since British colonialists justified
the broader epistemological system, and the "problematic" of national- their mission by claiming also to "civilize" the natives in their treatment
ism in India, its concrete manifestation as it unfolds in dialogue with the ofwomen, nationalism became associated in part with a resistance to the
"thematic': Chatterjee's argument is that the thematic and the problem- "Westernization" of women. Women were perceived to have a specific
atic weave together in complex ways: nationalist thought takes some of form of spirituality, distinct from that of men, but that did not neces-
its precepts (the "thematic") from Western rational thought but it must sarily prevent them from participating in social and public life. That the
also contest the arguments and objectives of colonial knowledge. The nationalist movement conceived itself to be regulatiIig the question of
problematic of nationalism in India must then open up the framework women's positions on its own nevertheless meant that it was not a key
of knowledge that seeks to dominate it, and create itself differently. It part of their negotiation with the colonial state. If women's lives did
is, in sum, "a different discourse, yet one that is dominated by another" change dramatically during the period of nationalist agitation, Chat-
(Chatterjee 1999: 42). terjee argues that they were nevertheless excluded from the conception
The rest of Chatterjee's text examines three moments in the history of of the new nation state.
nationalist thought in India: the moments of departure, manoeuvre and The work of the Subaltern Studies Collective is broad in its range and
arrival. There is no space here to summarize all three, but the moment militant in its call for attention to the ongoing oppression of the people,
of manoeuvre comprises a discussion of Gandhi that is worth noting in including women and the peasantry. The group's highly politicized form
the context of this chapter. Chatterjee explores Gandhi's critique of civil of historiography ran up against difficulties, however, perhaps not least
society and stresses that this is directed not against the West but against of which was their omission of a clearly ethical and self-reflexive cri-
modern civilization. As we know, Gandhi was also not nationalist, and tique. Spivak's controversial essay "Deconstructing Historiography"
even more, for Chatterjee his thought is barely historical but predOmi- (1996a), initially printed in Subaltern Studies, volume IV; argues that
nantly moral. Gandhi's thinking turned out to rely on a disjuncture the group find themselves adhering to a positivist notion of subaltern
between politics and morality, even though the concept of "ahimsa" consciousness as recoverable even as they remind us that the subaltern's
had attempted to bridge that gap, and even though Hind Swaraj had voice is available to us only via the discourse of the elite. In this sense
tried to sketch a movement that accomplished a fusion between them. they risk turning against their own premises in their belief that they can
Gandhi's increasingly utopian use of notions of truth, of morality and access the subaltern's voice, even though they display its obfuscation by
the ideal was Ultimately antithetical to political thinking: his thought existing colonialist or bourgeois accounts. Spivak writes in support of
"saved its Truth by escaping from politics" (ibid.: 110). One example of the enterprise and afliliates herself to it, but argues that this paradox
this difficulty in Gandhi was his involvement in the khadi movement: in the endeavours of the Subaltern Studies Collective means that they
the principle that rural production would be for self-consumption and need to deconstruct the notion of the subject on which they rely, and
not for sale. In promoting this movement, however, Gandhi empha- she renames their focus not subaltern consciousness but "the subaltern
sized that the people should follow above all the morality behind the subject-effect': She goes on to define this as "that which seems to operate

72 understanding postcoionialism decoionization, community, nationalism 73

as a subject may be part of an immense discontinuous network ('text'in The Subaltern Studies Collective sought to :fill the gaps in Indian
a general sense) of strands that may be termed politics, ideology; eco- history by attending to the voice of the masses. They criticized
nomics, history; sexuality, language, and so on" (1996a: 213). The group's the universalism of Marxism and the dominance of the local, elite
notion of an identifiable subject pOSition is strategic, then, and their bourgeoisie, and also uncovered the co-implication of power and
proposal that the subaltern's consciousness might be recoverable should knowledge. Their work lacked a self-conscious reflection on its
be understood only against the background of this poststructuralist own ethics.
awareness of the inevitably textual reconstruction of that consciousness.
In addition to Spivak's nuanced critique, it also quickly emerged that
the sources available to the Subaltern Studies historians were in the end
highly limited. If they set out to rewrite Indian history from the point
of view of the masses, it was ultimately difficult for them to know the
complex facets of that occluded and subjugated perspective. In assert-
ing the political motivations of its new form of historiography, and in
criticizing Gandhi's foregrounding of the moral to the detriment of the
political, the movement did not fully take on board the ethical difficul-
ties of its own project. The journal Subaltern Studies was influential in
its identification of the imbrication of history or narrative with power,
and it supplemented Nandy's psychoanalytic analysis with examination
of the occluded position of the people in India's evolving nationalist
discourse, but it never quite resolved the problem, to use Nandy's terms,
of the necessary connection between knowledge and ethics within its
own militant lines.

Key points

Gandllls critique of British exploitation in India was moral as well

as political. He vilified the capitalist system and its mistreatment
of native workers, and championed a return to spirituality and
tradition. For Gandhi, however, the enemy was less the British
than the evils of modern civilization.
Gandhi called for home rule in India by means of "satyagraha"
or a form of passive resistance. Unlike Fanon, he disapproved of
violence and recommended peaceful forms of protest, together
with strength of will. A powerfully influential figure, Gandhi was
nevertheless unable to conceive the political organization of a new
Nandy draws on both Gandhi and Fanon to explore the psychol-
ogy of colonialism, and the damaging effects of the stereotypes
and myths of the native. He argues that inferior knowledge leads
to bad eL1.ics.

decolonization, community, nationalism 75

74 understanding postcolonialism
mission. Said uses Foucault's notion of discourse as expounded in The
Archaeology of Knowledge (200lb) and Discipline and Punish (1991)
to theorize the ways in which the Orient is discursively created as an
object of knowledge, and this process of construction and categorization
serves to reinforce the colonial project of conquest and subjugation.
He argues in the process that there is a direct link between concrete
politics and textual representation (via the media and history; as well as
four literature), and his critique of the political abuse of ideology is inflam-
matory, although he departs very clearly from the Marxist framework
Foucault and Said: colonial discourse lingering in Fanon and Sartre, or in the work of the Subaltern Studies
and Orientalism Group. Furthermore, this inauguration of a thoroughgoing investiga-
tion of imagery and representation heralds a new understanding of the
fantasized relation between self and other that structures the colonial
vision. The Orient for Said is the conglomeration of images and forms
that stand for Europe's other, and the colonialist creates his position of
mastery and dominance over that other by claiming to define, categor-
The work of Michel Foucault is a useful forerunner to postcolonial phil- ize and know its difference from the self. Not at all overtly Levinasian,
osophy in its groundbreaking dissection of the relation between power Said's analysis will nevertheless also turn out to be close to Levinas's
and knowledge. The Subaltern Studies historians argue that both colo- ethical critique in its denunciation of the drive to subsume the other
nial and bourgeois elitist power structures are at work within historical into the familiar framework of the self. This examination of knowledge
writing on colonialism and nationalism in India, since the exclusion of and representation inaugurates postcolonialism's ethical awareness of
the subaltern from his own history mirrors his economic and politi- the intractability of the marginalized other, and the movement's call for
cal subjugation. It is Foucault, however, who establishes a full-blown openness and responsibility towards the other's difference.
theory of the intersection between the production and dissemination of
knowledge on the one hand, and the operation and expansion ofpower
structures on the other. Foucault's philosophy invents a unique mode of Michel Foucault
analysis, which he terms "archaeology: and which retains as its goal the
exploration of how knowledge operates as a part of a system or network Foucault does not engage anywhere directly with the mechanics of
propped up by social and political structures of power. This means that colonialism, but his thinking is nevertheless highly influential because
the creation and use of knowledge itself is political, and can serve to he helps us to think through the mechanisms by which power is con-
propagate and reinforce the social marginalization and oppression of structed and disseminated. Rather than using the term "ideology:
those who do not conform to the norms of the dominant discourse. In however, with its Marxian connotations of falsity as opposed to truth,
exploring the potentially totalitarian, or at least authoritarian, effects of Foucault writes about the ways in which knowledge is shaped by the
discourse and representation, moreover, Foucault crucially opens the production of discourse, and this in turn props up the power struc-
way for thinkers such as Said to uncover the forms and uses of colonial tures of any given society. One of Foucault's most influential works is
knowledge. The Archaeology of Knowledge, and it is here that he examines most
In drawing on Foucault, however, Said moves away from both the explicitly the methodology underpinning the rest of his work. Archae-
revolutionary fervour and the empiricism encountered so far, and ology in this text names a new approach to history that relies not on
examines the academic study of the Orient, together with the fanta- continuity, on notions of tradition, direct influence, development or an
sized images of colonial territories that seep into cultural representa- underlying spirit, but on the identification of ruptures and discontinu-
tion, and the ways in which these feed into the politics of the colonial ities within and between discourses in history. Foucault argues that the

. 76 understanding postcolonial ism foucault and said 77

history of ideas has tended to try to suppress contradiction, whereas result of his social expulsion. Around this period madness was equally
his approach will "be ready to receive every moment of discourse in its potentially frivolous: it was the satirical punishment of ordered science,
sudden irruption" (2001b: 25). This means that any illusory coherence and it revealed the hidden potential of dreams and illusions. In the fif-
will be replaced by a vast examination "of the totality of all effective teenth century, however, madness becomes "moored" and institutional-
statements (whether spoken or written), in their dispersion as events ized, and the hospital served to silence and stultify the voice of unreason.
and in the occurrence that is proper to them" (ibid.: 27). The focus of the By 1656, the Hopital General had achieved an almost judicial power
analysis will be on relations between statements in fields of discourse over the madman, requiring sequestration and confinement. Foucault's
(such as that of madness, or pathology, or, later, sexuality), and these analysis works through the various categories and images associated
relations will be explored according to their transformations through with madness from this moment of institutionalization, uncovering
time, in terms of their internal ruptures rather than in the service of a endless shifts and emergent beliefs, but in order above all to show its
coherent history. Foucault's discursive fields are made up of coexistent, construction as society's feared and relegated underside. In each case it
dispersed statements that can either interlock or exclude one another, is discourse that creates the category of unreason, and marginalizes or
but that can be examined on a broad scale according to the rules of their excludes from society those who are consigned to that category.
formation. Foucault also goes on to analyse objects of discourse (types This "archaeological" exploration of the interplay between discourse
of behavioural disorder, for example, in the field of psychopathology), and power continues in DisCipline and Punish, in which the focus is
which might in turn be highly dispersed, but which can be analysed not on the institutionalization of madness but on the evolution of sys-
together if their emergence can be identified by a particular discursive tems of punishment and surveillance. Foucault argues here that the
formation. This analysis is juxtaposed with a discussion of modalities gradual disappearance of torture as a public spectacle in the second
(the conditions of production of the discourse), concepts and strat- half of the eighteenth century was accompanied by the formulation
egies at work within the discourse. The text then explores the complex of new codes and rules of procedure. This new penal system set out to
production of the statement (the elementary unit of discourse), and punish not the crime, the individual act, but the "soul" of the criminal.
the system of the vast, contradictory and discontinuous archive within The question of guilt revolved not only around who committed the
which the statement functions. crime, but also around the causal processes that surrounded it, with
One of Foucault's first examples of a discourse conceived along these the result that "a whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, norma-
lines is that of madness and reason, and here it is clear that the dis- tive judgements concerning the criminal have become lodged in the
cursive formation structures knowledge in such a way as to prop up framework of penal judgement" (Foucault 1991: 19). Judgement and
relations of power. In Madness and Civilisation (2001a), Foucault sets punishment are enmeshed in a system of knowledge and understand-
out to examine the ways in which discourses about madness precisely ing' a set of "scientific discourses" determining what is acceptable to
created the madman as external to reason and to civilization, and he society, what is not, and how both are understood. This initial hypoth-
argues that society has required this division in order to conceive a esis then forms the basis for Foucault's highly influential theory ofbio-
. sense ofits own consistency and coherence. Subsequently summarizing power, since it is now the man, the individual and his body that are the
some of this method in The Archaeology ofKnowledge, Foucault affirms objects of penal intervention, rather than the crime. The penal system
that in the nineteenth century, for example, the medical profession, is regularized, refined and homogenized at the end of the eighteenth
together with the legal system, religious authority and even literature century, and what it acts on now is the individual in contravention of
and art, constructed madness as an object: delinquency was conceived the social contract and not simply the contingent action. In addition,
in patholOgical terms. So madness is never a given in Foucault's sci- Foucault analyses the development of the prison system, together with
ence, but is something that is made and shaped by those in a position the complex operation of "discipline" and social surveillance. There is
of authority. The discursive formation of madness as it is explored by not space to discuss the intricacy of this evolution here, but in both
Foucault in Madness and Civilisation is, however, once again dispersed cases Foucault's crucial argument is that increasingly the individual is
and discontinuous. In the late Middle Ages, for example, the madman constructed, watched over and regulated by a range of disciplinary sys-
was a wanderer, adrift on the ship of fools, although this was also as a tems built on the combination of knowledge and power. This process of

78 understanding postcolonialism foucault and said 79

surveillance, the control of behaviour and the drive to categorize those Through discourses such as those of madness, criminality and per-
whose behaviour exceeds or transgresses the law will serve Said as a version, and through the authority that such discourses wield over
model for the management of the colonized other via morality as well social formations, Foucault's subjects are shaped and given a position
as politics and culture. in society. For Foucault, "the individual, with his identity and charac-
Both Madness and Civilisation and Discipline and Punish rely on teristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies,
an understanding of the subject as formed, shaped and determined multiplicities, movements, desires, forces" (1980: 73-4). In turn, this
by dominant and regulatory discourses operating on him or her con- power is a vast and net-like organization that traverses and produces
stantly. Foucault went on to express his reservations towards this ana- forms of knowledge, and is propagated not only by the state but by
lysis in particular as it is worked through in Madness and Civilisation. individuals as they live out and reproduce its effects. No single indi-
In The Archaeology ofKnowledge he regrets that this text came close to vidual possesses power, but it is channelled and exercised through
proposing a generalized subject of history. Subjects are conceived as the web of individuals that make up the social fabric. For Foucault,
entirely formed by the discourses acting on them, and Madness and power operates on a wider level than that implied by Althusser's state
Civilisation also stresses that the dominant discourse rigorously divides apparatuses: it is not only wielded by the state or by the sovereign sub-
and opposes inside and outside, normal and abnormal. Discipline and ject but is produced in much more intricate localized systems. Fur-
Punish does not emphasize and reinforce classificatory categories in thermore, the notion of discourse replaces ideology as the vehicle of
this way, but Foucault still conceives the subject here as shaped by the power because it no longer relies on an opposition between truth and
all-pervasive operation ofinstitutions of power. In The History ofSexu- falsity, and, equally, it does not occupy a secondary position in rela-
ality (1978), however, Foucault comes to a more fluid understanding tion to a distinct economic base. Foucault's analyses show how know-
of the subject's ability at the same time, reciprocally, to shape and "care ledge and power mutually create and structure one another and are
for" him- or herself. By the time of the later volumes of The History diffused across the discursive formation. The individual subject lives
of Sexuality, Foucault explores not only the workings of power and within this formation and is always already in dialogue with it: there is
authority on the individual, in this case via discourses of repression, no underlying set of lived relations on which discourse would then act
perversion and transgression, but also the subject's self-examination from the outside.
and self-creation in relation to these discursive forces. The discourse We shall see in the next section how Said used Foucault's notions of
of repression now also triggers a proliferation of counter-discourses, power and discourse to think more specifically about the mechanics of
and these are what incite Guha and the other Subaltern Studies his- . colonialism. The summary above already indicates, however, that his
torians to deploy Foucault's association of power and knowledge to work lends itself to the analysis of subjugated subjects, and it has also
explore the response of the subjugated native. Importantly, however, been observed lthat it was in writing The Archaeology of Knowledge in
Foucault's evolving methodology is concerned not with ideology, with Tunis that Foucault was better able to critique the authoritarianism and
a notion of false consciousness, but with the production of a network ethnocentrism of French culture. In addition, the notion ofbio-power
of potentially contradictory discourses that exert authority over the explored in Discipline and Punish and, more comprehensively, in The
very construction of our subjectivity, and our subsequent position- History ofSexuality could be seen to work on, and marginalize, the racial
ing within, or indeed outside, society. If in Madness and Civilisation other and to contribute to the oppressive construction of ethnicity. Ann
unreason is defined by the dominant category of reason, then in The Laura Stoler has explored the potential resonances of Foucault's work for
History of Sexuality perversion is created by a discourse of repression, a critique of racism, and has argued that the "biopolitical" state creates a
and this isolates, intensifies and consolidates peripheral sexualities notion of sexual degeneracy that also intersects with race (Stoler 1995).
(even though there is now a sense of a mutual negotiation between the Foucault's work fails overtly to take into account the practical field of
margin and the centre). In these works, and in Discipline and Punish, empire, nor does he write of the concrete mechanics of citizenship, but
Foucault exposes the complex interweaving of discursive formations his analysis of discourses of normativity and exclusion can be deployed
that create in more or less determinate ways society's marginalized in an examination of the subjugation of the colonized as a result of his
and subjugated others. or her ethnic difference.

80 understanding postcolonialism foucault and said 81

If Foucault is influential in his conceptualization of discourse and "Cogito and the History of Madness" in Writing and Difference (1978),
power, however, his work has also been highly controversial. Spivak's Derrida notes that Foucault separates madness and reason in order to
famous essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988), for example, analysed argue precisely that madness is reason's other. This suggests at the same
in Chapter 6, opens with a discussion of Foucault's and Gilles Deleuze's time that madness is excluded from reason, and that it is outside the self-
blindness towards their own assumptions of Western cultural hegemony, .contained structure of rationality and civilization. According to Derrida,
and this effectively mars their ability to speak about colonized peoples. however, this means that Foucault's writing gets caught in a trap, since
Spivak notes that in Foucault's writing the subject is never at odds with he claims somehow to be analysing madness using a language that is
itself, the relation between desire and interest is never questioned, and distinct from that of reason, even though he turns out, of course, to be
some level of agency is assured. As a result, Spivak holds that Foucault unable to do so. Foucault also writes as ifhe knows what madness is, as if
and Deleuze perhaps unwittingly retain a conception of the sovereign the signifier can be understood in logical language. Derrida then traces
subject, and this is effectively the "Subject as Europe" (Spivak 1988: 280). Foucault's use of Descartes, and shows that Descartes sought to distin-
In Foucault's writing, Spivak determines that the subject can know and guish reason from madness without enquiring into the nature of the
speak for itself, it retains a sense of agency, and for her this derives from language used to execute that distinction. As a result of both readings,
Foucault's presumption that the marginalized subject is still European Derrida argues that madness must on the .contrary be considered as a
and still has a voice. Furthermore, in analysing society's excluded others, linguistic supplement at work within reason, that it is the differance, the
Foucault apparently forgets to draw attention to the division between uncontrolled chain of traces that reason is unable to exclude. To return
his perspective and that of the subaltern worker: "neither Deleuze nor to the postcolonial, although Derrida does not spell out this implica-
Foucault seems aware that the intellectual within socialized capital, tion here, the location of otherness within the language of reason, or
brandishing concrete experience, can help consolidate the international within the hegemonic discourse, helps to trouble any reductive oppo-
division oflabor" (ibid.: 275). Everything in Foucault's work rests on sition between self and other, between those in power and those who
the assumption that the subject analysed is European, and his exegeses are oppressed. In turn, Derrida's reading might go some way to resolv-
are unable to conceptualize the highly complex and elusive workings ing Spivak's anxiety about the apparent security and self-presence of
of power and desire on what she terms "the unnamed subject of the Foucault's analytical, and indeed oppressed, subject. Foucault also
Other of Europe" (ibid.: 280). Even an intellectual exercise that sets revised his work after receiving Derrida's critique, and certainly his later
out to reflect on structures of marginalization remains anchored in an theories of resistance operating within the power structure seem more
ethnocentric framework perpetuating European dominance. Foucault's consistent with the Derridean perception of otherness within the domi-
marginalized others are only ever shadows or reflections of a European nant discourse of the centre. Derrida's critique may nonetheless tum out
self and the colonized other is consequently forgotten and erased in still to be pertinent to Said's clearly postcolonial use of Foucault, and it
his work. is to this deployment that this chapter will now turn.
Spivak's criticisms are undoubtedly somewhat equivocal, and her
observations certainly do not mean that Foucault's influence on post-
colonial studies has been abortive. Said drew extensively on Foucault's Edward Said, Orientalism
work in his Orientalism ([1978] 1995), although he understands dis-
course in more coherent and more historically grounded terms than Said was a Palestinian born in Jerusalem in 1935, and was educated
those suggested by Foucault's proliferating networks of power. In add- in Cairo before continuing his studies and developing his career in
ition, Young writes about the resonance of Foucault's reflections on America. His work is distinctive in the sense that, in his role as "public
rupture and discontinuity for an understanding of the limits of West- intellectual': he combines literary criticism with politics and cultural
ern versions of History. As Young also discusses, however, if Foucault's philosophy, and accomplishes the unusual achievement of moving
work has been instrumental in shaping the evolution of postcolonial seamlessly between these discrete levels of analysiS and in addressing as
critique, some ofits schematism might be loosened, and Derrida's read- a result a broad audience of both specialized academics and the general
ing of Foucault on madness goes some way to achieve this suppleness. In .public. Critics have tended to focus either on his academic and literary

foucault and said 83

82 understanding postcolonialism
critical writing or on his interventions on Palestine, but Said himself Orient, in the multiple disciplines of anthropology, sociology, history
perceived these endeavours very much as part of the same project of or philology. Secondly, however, Orientalism is "a style of thought based
unsettling the West's vision of the Orient, the colony and Islam. It is also upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between
one of the principal arguments of Orientalism that one can identify the 'the Orient' and 'the Occident'" (Said 1995: 2). In this way Orientalism
link between culture and politics by analysing colonial discourse along- tends to rely on a binary opposition between East and West, and this
side the mechanics of conquest and economic exploitation. Although he dichotomy is both misleading and destructive, since the Orient comes
has been criticized for dehistoricizing the discourses he analyses, Said to stand for all that is "other" to the West and therefore threatening.
nevertheless argues that literary as well as historical or popular texts Thirdly, Orientalism can be seen as "a Western style for dominating,
absorb and disseminate contemporary forms of knowledge that can restructuring, and having authority over the Orient" (ibid.: 3). Ori-
serve to support the colonial power structure operating at the time. The entalism is from this point of view a discourse in Foucault's sense: it
difficulties associated with this move in Said's work will be discussed is a wide-ranging network of texts, images and preconceptions, all of
later in this section, and there are certainly shortcomings in his cursory which serve to designate the Eastern other as "a sort of surrogate and
treatment ofliterary works, as well as in his vast, wide-ranging and per- even underground self" (ibid.). It is a way of representing the Orient, a
haps generalized theory of Orientalist discourse. Beneath the critique discourse that reconstitutes the East using a number of preconceptions
of Orientalism is nevertheless the ardent belief that all human beings and assumptions, and this discourse helps to reinforce the position
engage with a "contrapuntal" meeting of cultural influences, and forms of the West as the site of power. Said uses Foucault here because the
of knowledge that do not address this connectivity misunderstand the notion of discourse enables him to move between text and world, and
specificity of "human experience': to support his affirmation of the dialogue between culture and politics.
Said's argument is in this sense universal, and although problem- He develops Foucault, however, by drawing attention to the spatial or
atic in its broad sweep, rests once again on an ethical understanding geographic functioning of discourse, together with its infiltration into
of both the diversity and the commonality of human experience. It is cultural performance.
perhaps surprising that the term ''human'' crops up so frequently in Said's definition of Orientalism relies on the argument that the ideas
the work of the postcolonial thinkers analysed so far, since Fanon and about the Orient propagated by Orientalists have concrete and empirical
Sartre, as well as Said, vilify a Eurocentric form of humanism even as foundations and effects. If Gustave Flaubert's depiction of the Egyptian
they uphold the importance of a new notion of the human necessitat- courtesan Kuchuk Hanem never allows her to speak for herself, for
ing an understanding of the freedom and the alterity of the other. Said example, then this mirrors the broader pattern whereby the West seeks
also departs from Foucault in retaining the notion of the human rather to govern the East: to represent it in familiar terms the better to enforce
than deconstructing with the latter the very notion of the subject by its own position of strength. Said asserts that "Orientalism, therefore,
displaying consistently its formation in discourse. A number of crit- is not an airy European fantasy about the Orient, but a created body of
ics have objected to Said's humanism, both because it contradicts his theory and practice in which, for many generations, there has been a
engagement with poststructuralists such as Foucault, and because it can considerable material investment" (ibid.: 6). Said also draws on Gramsci
appear somewhat under-theorized. 'This difficulty will be dealt with fur- here to theorize the ways in which certain ideas predominate over others
ther later in the chapter, but it is worth noting for now that Said is both and achieve a form of cultural hegemony, and this hegemony is assured
distinctive and controversial because, like Fanon and Sartre, he finishes also by the consent of society. Orientalist views of the Orient acquire
by combining a historical and political critique of colonial oppression hegemony and serve to prop up myths of European superiority that
with a conception of the unity as well as the diversity of the human as are largely accepted by the society in which they are propagated. The
a symbol of resistance. link between Orientalist ideas and concrete power structures is not,
Orientalism sets out to define the notion of Orientalist discourse according to Said, direct and unidirectional, and yet these ideas clearly
and to criticize its delusions, which perniciously feed into the diffu- participate in a sort of uneven exchange with various sites of power,
sion of colonial power. The term Orientalism covers three interrelated whether these be intellectual, cultural, moral or political, and closely
meanings. First, Said argues that it names the academic study of the related to the colonial or imperial establishment. In examining this

foucault and said 85

84 understanding postcolonialism
"exchange: Said at the same time criticizes the rigidity of the Marxist If Orientalism is conceived as a drive for knowledge of the other, that
division between superstructure and base, and stresses that his goal is knowledge is structured by a set of images that serve to encapsulate and
precisely to explore the interpenetration of these two levels, to show classify its object. Islam, for example, is a focal point for the Oriental-
how "political imperialism governs an entire field of study" (ibid.: ist, and comes to symbolize barbarism, fanaticism and terrorism. The
14). The analyses he carries out with this aim will also focus more on Orientalist seizes on preconceptions such as these and uses them to
individual influences than Foucault's archaeological probings, but will define the entire religion and the culture that accompanies it, so that the
nevertheless demonstrate how these come together in their creation of Orientalizing gesture is at the same time one of reduction. Even with the
a certain cultural hegemony. Orientalism is unified as a discourse, but development of the understanding ofIslam in the West, the Orientalist
it is important for Said that it can be analysed by means of a series of still strives to manage and domesticate the image of the Islamic other.
individual texts. Said argues as a result that the Orientalist "will designate, name, point
The main body of Said's work sifts through a multitude of exam- to, fix what he is talking or thinking about with a word or phrase, which
ples of Orientalist discourse in political and historical texts, literature then is considered either to have acquired, or simply to be, reality" (Said
and, more recently, the media. Said begins, for example, by referring to 1995: 72). Napoleon's desired conquest of Egypt, for example, was bound
Balfour's lecture, addressed to the House of Commons on 13 June 1910, up with a claim both to know and understand the Muslims, together
on the subject of Britain's hold on Egypt and the difficulties in keeping with the belief that a colonial mission could teach them the evidently
that hold secure. Said notes that Balfour's speech appears to refuse an superior ways of the French. Furthermore, Said argues that from this
attitude of British superiority over Egypt, but nevertheless the argu- point on, Orientalist discourse developed to the extent that it lost its
ment revolves around the premise that the British know the civilization descriptive realism and hinged itself on the wholesale creation of the
of Egypt. This apparently thorough knowledge of Egypt, according to Oriental other: "the Orient as reconstructed, reassembled, crafted, in
Said, equates here to Egypt itself, it is Egypt, and the assurance of this short, born out of the Orientalists' efforts" (ibid.: 87). Subsequent writ-
knowledge also gives Britain authority over the Oriental country. At no ers such as Fran~ois- Rene de Chateaubriand, Alphonse de Lamartine
point does Balfour address the perceptions of the Egyptians themselves and Flaubert all learn from these creations, these stylized simulacra, as
- any Egyptian who spoke out would merely be conceived as an agita- indeed did more scientific projects such as Ferdinand de Lesseps's Suez
tor - and Balfour insists that British occupation is clearly good for the Canal in its endeavour to bring together East and West.
native population. He speaks as a result on behalf of Britain or, indeed, Said's analysis of the vast scope of Orientalism is juxtaposed with an
the civilized world, at the same time as he speaks for the Egyptians. Simi- examination of its representational structures in the work of a series of
larly, Said goes on to trace overlapping preconceptions in Lord Cromer's writers and thinkers. During the eighteenth century, four elements linked
discourse on Egypt, even if this is based not on abstract knowledge the structure of Orientalist discourse, all of which will later be parodied
but on the day-to-day experience of managing the colony. Cromer too in Flaubert's Bouvard et Picuchet (1999). These four elements include
insists on Britain's supposedly superior knowledge of the country and of the expansion of the territory to which the term "Orient" referred, the
what is right for its inhabitants. This assumption is backed up by a gamut contribution of historians as well as travellers to Orientalist representa-
of stereotypes of Orientals or Arabs as gullible as well as cunning, and tion, the sympathetic perception of a coherent spirit within the Orient
lethargic as well as dishonest. Political discussions of the role of Brit- and, finally, the drive towards classification. These structures at the same
ain overseas are in this way underpinned by a reservoir of knowledge, time contributed to the secularization of Orientalism, so that it was no
and Said also argues that this justified in advance the colonial project longer simply a question of Islam versus Christianity, even if old reli-
(although it is perhaps noteworthy that in the introduction he affirmed gious patterns continued to enter into the Orientalist vision. Said also
rather that it served to prop up the mission once it was in place). In any now associates the Orientalist drive with the "mission civilisatrice" and
case, the colonial presence is shown to be intricately bound up with a with a move towards modernization: "the modern Orientalist was, in
history of contacts, of voyages of discovery and the preconceptions that his view, a hero rescuing the Orient from the obscurity, alienation, and
emerge from these, all achieved against the background of a belief that strangeness which he himself had properly distinguished" (ibid.: 121).
Europe was necessarily in a position of strength. Said's most controversial example of such a modernist belief in the West

86 understanding postcolonialism foucault and said 87

as the harbinger of progress can be found in his discussion of Marx, in Orientalism is now conceived not just as a discourse prevalent at the
which he locates a contradiction between repugnance towards the treat- particular historical moment of colonial expansion, but as a tradition
ment of the exploited natives and the persistent belief in the historical and a doctrine affirming the superiority of the West that continues to
necessity of Britain's transformation of Indian society. Ahmad criticizes hold sway. Said notes that the Orientalist study ofIslam lags behind the
Said's reading of Marx, arguing that the former paints a dismissive and rest ofthe human sciences in its retention of retrograde assumptions and
reductive portrait of Marx's complex writing on India. Nevertheless, the cursory methodology. Even more, since the Second World War and in
example allows Said to reveal the creeping of Orientalist beliefs even the wake of the Arab-Israeli wars, the Arab is increasingly and repeatedly
into non-Orientalist, secular modem discourse. stereotyped. Arabs are blamed for oil shortages, and it is seen as a sign of
The exoticism ofnineteenth-century discourses on the Orient is con- injustice that many countries with oil reserves should be populated by
jured most colourfully in Said's readings of Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Arabs. The Arab is also "the disrupter ofIsrael and the West's existence':
Gerard de Nerval and Flaubert. For Chateaubriand, for example, again an obstruction in the creation ofIsrael in 1948 and "a shadow that dogs
the Oriental's voice and experience are of little importance, and "what the Jew" (ibid.: 286). Equally, Orientalist images now are not only the
matters about the Orient is what it lets happen to Chateaubriand, what preserve of popular culture, but continue according to Said to be propa-
it allows his spirit to do, what it permits him to reveal about himself, his gated by academics. Even The Cambridge History ofIslam published in
ideas, his expectations" (ibid.: 173). Texts such as Rene and Atala, as well as 1970 is vague and methodologically flawed, and contains a multitude of
the Itineraire de Paris it Jerusalem, testify; even more, to the author's desire misconceptions about the religion as well as its history. Said's at times
to absorb and consume what he sees. Lamartine surveys the Orient from virulent attack on contemporary Western representations ofIslam is also
a similar position of assumed knowledge and portrays Oriental terri- developed just a few years later in Covering Islam (1981), a rather more
tory as "'waiting anxiously for the shelter' of European occupation" (ibid.: journalistic text railing against the reductive and ignorant perception of
179). For Nerval and Flaubert, on the other hand, the Orient was "not so Islam as propagated by the media. Here again, Said criticizes the use of
much grasped, appropriated, reduced, or codified as lived in, exploited cliches and labels, the construction ofIslam as a monolithic entity and
aesthetically and imaginatively as a roomy place full ofpossibility" (ibid.: the association ofthat entity with hostility and fear. This ignorance about
181). In this sense Nerval and Flaubert depart from orthodox Oriental- Islam is particularly pernicious in the United States, where the religion
ism because they are far more aware ofthe limits of their knowledge, but is connected for many Americans solely with issues such as oil, the wars
experience these limits as a source ofseduction and allure. For Nerval, the in Afghanistan and Iran, and terrorism.
Orient is a place of sexual intrigue, the locus of a mysterious and desir- Said in this way traces the development of Orientalist discourse all
able femininity, although the female sexual object always nevertheless the way from Aeschylus to modem journalism, and this identification
exceeds his grasp. Flaubert's writing on the Orient is so rich and com- of continuity creates a powerful polemic against the destructive effects
plex as to be difficult to summarize, but Said nevertheless finds within of what Nandy might have dubbed "inferior knowledge': One of the
it the repeated confrontation between the search for an exotic spectacle frequent criticisms levelled against Said, however, is precisely that his
and the actual discovery of "decrepitude and senescence" (ibid.: 185). concept of Orientalist discourse is vast and generalized, and that the
If the notebooks betray disappOintment, works such as Salammb6 set discussion glosses over differences between distinct types of Orientalist
about reconstructing the image of Oriental glory. At the same time, like discourse. Said does trace shifts and variations as he works through his
Nerval, Flaubert and his characters Emma Bovary and Frederic Moreau series of examples, but his argument is precisely that Orientalism is a
associate the Orient with sexual desire, erotic energy and discovery. Said superficial appropriation of multiple and distinct others into the broad
notes Flaubert's self-consciousness and complexity, however, but tends schema of the superior West pitted against the inferior East. It is none-
to underplay the irony that pervades his writing: his knOwing depiction theless true that the overarching framework of Orientalism encour-
of the Orientalist vision as both seductive and reductive. ages a synthetic view of how various types of Orientalist discourses
In the final section of Orientalism, Said moves away from literary operate. The critique of Flaubert, for example, distinguishes him from
criticism into a discussion of the prevalence of Orientalist discourse in Chateaubriand and Lamartine, but underlines the exoticism of his
the more recent cultural context, within both academe and the media. vision of the Orient and fails to draw attention to his subversive irony.

88 understanding postcolonial ism foucault and said 89

The text of Orientalism tends to subsume its intricate examples into an that he describes and, indeed, his analysis might be accused of the same
all-consuming, homogenizing framework at the expense of potential drive towards occlusion as those he takes as the object of his critique.
subtleties and dislocations within individual instances of Orientalist Finally, however, there remains an underlying ambiguity in Oriental-
discourse. In this sense Said's Orientalism differs from the forms of ism concerning the notion of the "Orient" at its heart, and this ambigu-
discourse theorized by Foucault, since Foucault's point was precisely to ity troubles his concept of an anti-colonial response. Young points out
analyse discontinuities and ruptures within the larger system. For Said, that Said at times suggests that Orientalist discourse misrepresents the
conversely, although Orientalist discourse does mutate and develop, Orient, that it deforms and distorts a place and a people that actually
what is far more striking is the persistence of outworn structures and exist. At others, however, Said implies that there is no "real" Orient,
approaches in modern forms of Orientalism, and it is the broad, con- since the signifier applies only to a fantasy, an idea with no foundation
tinuous sweep of the Orientalist vision that prevails. It is for this reason outside its own construction. "Orientalist" at once occludes some real
that Derrida's critique of Foucault's Madness and Civilisation, and its or authentic feature of the Orient, and fabricates an image of a locus
tendency to homogenize and separate discourses of reason from exam- that does not really exist. This difficulty in turn problematizes the ques-
ples of unreason, might equally be applied to Said. Just as reason cannot tion of whether or not there could be an alternative to the forms of
exclude the irrational other, the discourse of Orientalism is permeated representation that Said denounces. If Orientalism misconceives a real
with ambivalence, with internal dissent. Bhabha denounces this false Orient, then some reference to an alternative, corrected version might
unity and smoothness in Said's portrayal of Orientalism, and theorizes have been helpful. However, if the Orient is only ever a product of
on the contrary the dislocations within Western culture. This criticism discourse, then any suggested alternative would also be a construction
of Orientalism's false unity can also be linked to the objection levelled and, although it would be significant and informative if this were pro-
by more materialist critics that Said's analysis is insufficiently historical duced by a native rather than by the colonizer, this construction could
and empirical, and risks occluding specific contextual differences in the not be taken necessarily as an accurate representation of the real. Both
discourses examined. Orientalists and their dissenters propose structures and modes of writ-
A further difficulty with Said's analysis in Orientalism is that it does ing rather than mimetic representative forms that can encapsulate the
not accord space to the natives' response. The Subaltern Studies histo- Orient as a single, identifiable culture or place. By the time of Culture
rians drew our attention to the risk that academic discourse can speak and Imperialism, however, Said addresses these questions, includes a
in the place of the colonized other, but Said himself criticizes Orien- whole chapter on narratives of resistance and proposes a subtle and
talist discourse without discussing how those misrepresented by that informative understanding of "contrapuntal" textuality. By now no work
discourse might have answered back. Moreover, Said does not only can be seen to be representative of one thing, "East" and 'West" are not
silence the voices of the exploited and subjugated, but also those of the configured into a stark binary opposition, and resistance is figured as a
colonized country's elite. Ahmad denounces this omission from Said's process of discursive negotiation and exchange.
work, and argues that Orientalism "examines the history of Western
textualities about the non-West quite in isolation from how these textu-
alities might have been received, accepted, modified, challenged or over- Culture and Imperialism
thrown by the intelligentsias of the colonized countries" (1992: 172).
Furthermore, in his pOSition of exile Said appears to set himself up as a Culture and Imperialism was published a number of years after Orien-
privileged observer, and he reminds us at the beginning of Orientalism talism, in 1993, and sets out at once to expand and develop its scope,
that it was his experience of racism in America that fuelled the writing and to fill its gaps. First, this later work no longer focuses exclusively
of the book. Nevertheless, Said is clearly extremely well educated and on the Middle East, as Orientalism did, but examines a larger pattern
attained a comfortable, accepted position within the Western academy, in discourses and representations of Europe's overseas territories. The
and his identification with the marginalized and the disenfranchised can study includes writing on Africa, India, parts of the Far East, Australia
be seen to have become a little tenuous. As a result, it is not clear that and the Caribbean, and traces persistent tendencies to conceive these
Said can distinguish himself from the producers of coercive discourse lands as the other of the metropolitan centre. Secondly, Said notes that

90 understanding postcolonialism foucault and said 91

he omitted to address the question of resistance in Orientalism, and at once progressive and reactionary. His vision does not have the smooth
affirms now that "there was always some form of active resistance and, certainty Said found in Orientalist discourse, but turns out to be at war
in the overwhelming majority of cases, the resistance finally won out" with itself. In depicting Marlow's African journey in Heart ofDarkness,
(Said 1993: xii). Said again departs from Foucault in this renewed atten- Conrad emphasizes not only his adventures but also his telling of the
tion to movements of resistance, and argues in The World, the Text, the story to British listeners, and the contingency of the narrative suggests
Critic (1984) that one of the deficiencies of Foucault's thinking is that that despite the impression given ofthe power of colonialism, that power
the system of power it proposes is so all-encompassing. This awareness is limited to the specific situation and moment of the telling. Said argues
of widespread resistance means that in this work Said both spends time that there are two possible postcolonial responses to Heart ofDarkness:
reading the colonized's responses to colonialism, and becomes more one would perceive in it a depiction of sovereign imperialism at its
attentive to the uncertainties and ambivalences operating in metropoli- height, whereas the other would stress that its historical specificity also
tan representations of the colonies. While in Orientalism the implica- implies that it will at some point come to an end. In Said's words:
tion was that a writer or thinker was either Orientalist or was not, in
Culture and Imperialism key figures such as Joseph Conrad are revealed since Conrad dates imperialism, shows its contingency, records
to be at once critical of and complicit with colonial discourse. its illusions and tremendous violence and waste (as in Nos-
Said at the same time develops his argument from Orientalism con- tromo), he permits his later readers to imagine something
cerning the link between culture and politics, and in this instance argues other than an Africa carved up into dozens of European col-
specifically for the political inflections of narrative. While culture on onies, even if, for his own part, he had little notion of what that
one level retains relative autonomy from economics, politics and social Africa might be. (1993: 28)
issues, on another level Said asserts that narrative nevertheless shapes
and reflects back ideas on material conditions and empirical events. In addition, Said shows that Conrad's narrators are self-conscious: they
For Said: worry about colonialism rather than buying into it without question,
and this anxiety hints at the unconscious presence of creeping doubts.
the main battle in imperialism is over land, of course; but when Conrad offers Said a particularly subversive example of a simulta-
it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and neous complicity with and undermining of colonialism, but many of
work on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now Said's less provocative readings in Culture and Imperialism also do not
plans its future - these issues were reflected, contested, and set out to blame those authors who reproduce aspects of colonial dis-
even for a time decided in narrative. As one critic has sug- course in their texts. Written at the quasi-official period of empire in
gested, nations themselves are narrations. (Ibid.: xiii) India but also at the moment when its demise was becoming apparent,
Kipling's Kim expresses great affection for the native Indians but sup-
Cultural narratives are in this sense not entirely divorced from the ports the colonial mission unquestioningly. Kipling genuinely considers
context in which they are produced, culture should not be "antisep- the British presence in India to function in the interests of the Indians
tically quarantined from its worldly affiliations': and the novels that themselves, and although his work appears to be riven with contradic-
Said takes as his focus are shown quite manifestly to absorb, reproduce tions in its affiliation with both Indians and British, colonialism was
and reshape the imperial process of which they are necessarily a part the dominant ideology at the time of Kipling's upbringing, and he had
(ibid.: xv). Furthermore, the mechanics of empire depend on the idea of inevitably absorbed it as part of the status quo. The text cannot help but
empire as it is constructed in metropolitan society, and it is by means of reproduce this ideology, even though its author was at the same time
culture and narrative that that idea is developed and disseminated. committed to living alongside the natives, and treating the..rn with the
The range of texts examined by Said in Culture and Imperialism utmost benevolence. Similarly, in his discussion ofJane Austen's Mans-
is once again vast, but a few arresting examples will be worth noting field Park Said argues that structures of domestic authority mirror the
for their demonstration of a certain ambivalence towards the colonial colonial relation between Britain and Antigua, but this is at the same
proj ect. Conrad, for example, is significant for Said because his work is time a t.estimonyto how imperialism functioned in British society at the

foucault and said 93

92 understanding postcolonialism
time. Austen's depiction may contain irony, and yet 'i\.usten reveals her- as Guha, and surely himself, who simultaneously want to attend to the
self to be assuming (just as Fanny assumes, in both senses of the word) subaltern while their work is conditioned by their upbringing within
the importance ofan empire to the situation at home" (Said 1993: 106). an elite. Despite these difficulties, Said's aim is to outline a broad notion
Said's reading of Camus equally shows how, born in Algeria, Camus of resistance as working both within and against imperialist modes of
inherited uncritically beliefs that the French belong in North Africa, representation, and in this sense his work learns from poststructuralism
even though history was beginning to overtake him. Camus clings to (perhaps, again, from Derrida's critique of Foucault). Said's endeavour
Algeria because it is his homeland, and perhaps, like Kipling or even in this work is to demonstrate precisely that "no one today is purely one
Austen, he grew up believing that the colonial presence was simply a thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are no
given, part of the natural order of things, even though he lived at the tail more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for
end of the colonial epoch. This complicity becomes highly fraught with only a moment are quickly left behind" (Said 1993: 407).
the start of the Algerian War of Independence, and yet Camus continued Said's embrace of cultural mixing is rooted in his ethical resistance to
to believe paSSionately in harmony and communion with the Arabs. He an ontology of mastery, whereby the dominant self defines the other by
was for Said "a moral man in an immoral situation': utterly defined by means of the hegemonic discourse and uses that definition to tyrannize
France's mission in Algeria and lost when the validity of that mission the other and restrict his or her freedom. Controversially, however, Said
was thrown into question (ibid.: 210). then distances himselffrom any passing de constructive influence even as
One of the distinctions of Culture and Imperialism is nevertheless that he draws on some of its methods. He formulates the ethical requirement
it theorizes the production of narratives of resistance, and Said explores that we remain open to the other's difference and, indeed, to the other
not only testimonies oflocal anti-colonialism but signs ofdissent within as internally multiple and hybridized, in terms of a belief in a common
metropolitan texts. E. M. Forster's A Passage to India portrays Indian humanity. At the end of Orientalism, Said states that "in having to take up
animosity towards the colonial presence, even though the novel tries at a position of irreducible opposition to a region ofthe world it considered
the same time to underplay signs of a deeper conflict between colonizer alien to its own, Orientalism failed to identify with human experience,
and colonized. Other forms of ambivalence are found in texts by indig- failed to see it as human experience" (Said [1978] 1995: 328). The con-
enous authors, since ostensibly anti-colonial writers at times model their clusion of Culture and Imperialism similarly suggests that "human life"
works on colonial and metropolitan texts. Tayeb Salih's Season ofMigra- is not about separation and distinctiveness (1993: 408), and in Covering
tion to the North mirrors Conrad's Heart ofDarkness, and Gesaire's Une Islam Said laments that it is specifically the "human dimension" of Islam
Tempete is evidently a rewriting of the Shakespeare play. Writers such as that is constantly overlooked (1981: 135). Even the more militant analysis
these subversively rework the original in order to represent the perspec- in The Question ofPalestine (1979) retains as one ofits goals the call for
tive of the colonized and the oppressed, but the works are necessarily attention to the human experience of Palestinians. Finally, the posthu-
"contrapuntal" in their engagements with both sides. More militantly, mously published Humanism and Democratic Criticism argues that it is
Fanon is heralded as a thinker who calls for the destruction of the binary possible to criticize humanism in the name of humanism, and conceives
opposition between colonizer and colonized and the establishment of a anew form of humanism based on openness to other cultures: "human-
new form of history that would bridge the gap between black and white. ism ... must excavate the silences, the world of memory, of itinerant,
Said notes Fanon's ambivalence towards nationalism, and also refers in barely surviving groups, the places of exclusion and invisibility, the kind
this context to Chatterjee's observation that even as it set out to specify oftestimony that doesn't make it onto the reports" (2004: 81). This return
the difference of the colonized, nationalism borrowed its ethic from the to the notion of the human clearly has an ethical function here, since in
influence of the power it set out to overthrow. 1his argument serves not. recognizing the humanity of the other, the self no longer conceives that
to undermine the gesture of resistance but to support Said's overriding other as an object but as self-creating and endlessly developing. The term
beliefin ongoing cultural interaction, and in the necessity ofunderstand- is a problematic one, however: it suggests the restoration of an unde-
ing the porosity of cultural frontiers in the wake of colonialism. Said constructed subject position, and its universalism has been perceived as
does not examine how the subaltern might come to achieve a position somewhat empty and banal. The humanist perspective is also denounced
of agency, and he does note the paradoxical role of intellectuals such for its evident androcentrism: it is a category that tends to be equated

94 understanding postcoloniaJism foucault and said 95

with "man" and excludes "woman': The human is a notion that has been necessitates an understanding of the other in ethical terms. This human-
criticized for its dissimulation offeminine experience beneath the mask ism remains oddly unheeding of deconstructive conceptio~s of the ~ub
of a discourse that refers ostensibly to men. ject constructed and disseminated in language, but reta:n~ a c~ous
Despite the risk of androcentrism in Said's use of the notion of the merit here in its desperate call for an ethical response. Sru.ds notion of
human, it is worth noting in passing that his work has in fact had a a common humanity demands an awareness of the basic requirements
considerable influence on gender studies within postcolonialism. Ori- of freedom and of the ability to create oneself independent of imposed
entalist discourse involved not only the reductive drive to "know" the structures of mastery and imperialist knowledge. The conception of
Oriental other, but also the exoticist fantasy of the Oriental woman's the other as human functions as an antidote to Orientalist objectifica-
mysterious sexual allure. Although philosophers such as Fanon and tion and reification, and implies an understanding of the residue or
Nandy emphasized the colonizer's image of the sexually potent black the excess that lies beyond the scope of those gestures of oppression
man or the virile Indian native, Said's concept of Orientalism allowed and tyranny. Said's humanism lacks the militancy of that of Fanon or
subsequent thinkers to develop their understanding of the particular Sartre, and he perhaps never solves the problem that his perspecti~e
oppression of women by the colonial gaze. Said does not dwell on this on the human is necessarily inseparable from his comfortable POSI-
at length himself, and it has been observed that his readings of female tion within Western academic discourse. Said's ongoing privileging of
writers such as Austen do not take into account sufficiently the ways the intellectual equally accords the latter a special status that could be
in which women writers related differently to the dominant discourse seen to be at odds with his claimed emancipatory universalism. There
of imperialism, but it is clear that his work has prOvided a theoretical is nevertheless in his persistent and daring tenacity with regard to the
backdrop against which the representation of colonized women can be concept of the human a crucial and influential alternative to the ''bad
assessed. Malek Alloula's The Colonial Harem (1987), for example, is a ethics" implicit in colonialism's "inferior knowledge".
collection of colonial postcards of North African women, and Alloulas
analysis explores the colonizer's overt obsession with the Oriental harem.
The postcards of veiled women, and later of unveiled women in erotic Key points
poses often displaying their breasts for the pleasure of the viewer, testify
to the male colonizer's desire for sexual as wen as territorial possession. Foucault explores the relation between power and knowledge: and
The role of sexuality in the colonial project, the drive to penetrate the uses the examples of madness, the prison system and SexualIty to
colony via its seductive and alluring females, is hinted at in Said's work show how discourse can serve to prop up relations of subjugation.
and further explored by Alloula. In addition, anti-colonial writers such He has been criticized for not himself examining colonial discourse,
as Assia Djebar set out to recreate the image of the colonized woman but his methodology is highly relevant to postcolonialism.
as a result at once of this sexual violence and of this fetishized mode of Said draws explicitly on Foucault in his exposition of Oriental-
representation. ist discourse. For Said, Orientalism is the academic study of the
Finally then, despite the risk of a latent androcentrism lingering in Orient, but it is also a set of images or a way of thinking about the
Said's retention of the notion of the human, his work paves the way for Orient that supports the West's dominance over the East.
a more developed examination of the position of women in colonial Culture and Imperialism expands on Orientalism by examining a
discourse and postcolonial theory. Circumspection is undoubtedlynec- broader range of colonial territories and, crucially, by including
essary in regenerating the concept of humanity as an ethical category, exploration of the native's resistance. The analysiS is also dis~c
but in Said's use of this concept there is also, nevertheless, an urgent tive because it draws out the ambivalence towards the colomal
can for recognition of a shared freedom and a shared communality in project of writers such as Conrad: Kipling ~d Camus. "
defiance of colonial structures of power and knowledge. A deeply flawed Said recommends constant attention to the contrapuntal meet-
concept, the human still serves Said as a basis on which to construct ing of cultures, but his thinking is also deeply humanist. His pos~
his demand for universal emancipation together with his celebration of colonial humanism calls for an ethical awareness of the other s
"contrapuntal" mixing, and the advantages of the term are indeed that it difference.

96 understanding postcoionialism foucauit and said 97

conceptualize differently the creation of that relation tlrrough language.
They deconstruct the mastery of the subject and the assimilation or
rejection of the other by the dominant discourse, and they insist on an
ethical relation of openness to mobile and potentially intractable forms
of difference. In this sense they help to think tlrrough the shift identified
by David Scott in Refashioning Futures (1999) between the moment of
five . decolonization and postcolonial ethics.
Derridean philosophy is deeply indebted to Levinasian ethics, and
Derrida and Bhabha: self, other although Bhabha engages only fleetingly with Levinas, his thought
learns from the latter's conceptions of Infinity and alterity in turn
and postcolonial ethics via Derrida. Both philosophers, like Levinas, respond to violence by
undermining the totalitarianism of a certain type of metaphysics and
by conceiving the relation between beings as the necessary confronta-
tion with, and acceptance of, plurality or the unknowable. In moving
away from militant or activist postcolonialism, moreover, the achieve-
ment of these thinkers is not only the application of Levinasian ethics
The postcolonial thinkers discussed so far have all articulated a clear set to postcolonial debate but a deeper questioning of the nature of post-
of political goals and have tended to tie their writing to some form of colonial philosophy. Derrida and Bhabha do not analyse the specifics
direct political activism. Fanon and Gandhi were major revolutionary of any given reginIe; they interrogate the structure of thinking behind
~gures,. Sartre and Said both combined academic work with political colonialism in general, and in this sense their work is more properly
Jo~alism, and Foucault and the Subaltern Studies Collective gave his- philosophical than that of those who investigate historically the explOi-
tonography a militant political agenda. Yet within the series of think- tation of particular reginIes. At the same time, however, Derrida raises
~rs ou~ed so far it is nevertheless possible to discern an increasing the question of whether such a universalizing analysis can account both
~terest III culture, language and the "politics" of representation, and it for the specific experiences of Algerians, indeed of Algerian Jews, and
IS to this more "textualist" postcolonialism that this chapter will turn for the infinitely singular responses of distinct subjects. Philosophy con-
via an-exploration of Jacques Derrida and Romi Bhabha. These latter ventionally involves abstraction from the concrete and the construction
philosop~ers do. not overlook the political, although the controversy of universals that transcend the specific, but postcolonial critique must
~~rrounding theIr degree ofpolitical efficacy will be examined later, but be both historically grounded on some level and, crucially, engaged
It IS nonetheless indisputable that their postcolonial critique is directed with the singular marginalized subjects that colonial thinking precisely
not so much against individual reginIes as against the ethnocentrism set out to oppress. Indeed, the very ethnocentric gesture that Derrida
of Western metaphysics. Derrida and Bhabha target not the mechan- denounces is one that subsumes the other into an apparently universal-
ics of colonial exploitation in Algeria or India but the structure of the ized framework, and the colonial mission also in practical terms rests on
Western episteme, which positions the European subject at the centre the belief that colonial culture can assimilate native practices. Derrida
and subordinates other cultures. This analysis of the Western philo- encourages us to ask how postcolonial philosophy might both accom-
sop~cal ~adition and its configuration of self and other may have a plish the philosophical gesture of abstraction or universalization, and
political dinIension but, unlike the work of militants such as Fanon and attend to the singularities that were occluded precisely by that gesture of
Sartre, the objective is not political liberation (Derrida and Bhabha in assimilation in the colonial context. Bhabha also sketches a new concep-
any case write after the decolonization of many overseas territories in tion of "theory': and suggests that marginalized subjectivities precisely
the 1950s and 1960s), but the creation of a postcolonial ethics. Derrida exceed the boundaries of established discourses: those of colonialism,
and Bhabha invite their readers to question assumptions of Euro- nationalism and, potentially, the philosopher himself This means that
pean hegemony, to rethink the relation between self and other and to "theory" itself must be a force of questioning, a heterogeneous process

98 understanding postcolonialism
derrida and bhabha 99

of ethical and potentially political contestation, rather than a claim for "Western" concept oflanguage as associated with the voice, self-presen~e
secure knowledge. and immediacy, and he reveals this as both deluded and ethnocentrIC.
Logocentrism is the affirmation of presence ~ l~guage: it names ~e
privileging of phonetic writing, in which meanmg 1$ apparentlyunmedi-
Derrida, ethnocentrism and colonialism ated and perfectly captured. This phonetic writing assumes that speech
is primary, since it depends on the controlling ~r~sen~e of the sp~ak~r,
Derrida was born in 1930 in EI Biar, near Algiers, into a family ofAlgerian and writing then mimics or follows speech, clarmmg ~ turn. to Signify
Jews. He went to school at the local college and then lycee, although he presence. Derrida locates this privileging of the logos ill phil~sophers
was traumatically excluded for two years, when the Vichy government from Plato to Hegel, and goes on to trace its development ill Saus-
deprived Algerian Jews of their French citizenship during the Second sure, Levi-Strauss and Rousseau. His purpose, however, is not only to
World War. Eventually returning to school in 1944, he read French phil- unravel a certain myth oflanguage as the Signifier of presence, but also
osophy, and passed his baccalaureat in 1948. He then went to the Lycee to show that this is an ideology that both predominates specifically in
Louis-Ie-Grand in Paris, then on to the Ecole Normale Superieure, and "the West': and excludes and denies the cultural others that it cannot
passed the agregation in 1956. He visited Harvard University, completed contain. For Derrida:
his military service, finished his thesis and went on to publish an intro-
duction to Husserfs The Origin of Geometry in 1962. The major works phonetic writing, the medium of the great metaphysical, sci-
Speech and Phenomena, Of Grammatology and Writing and Difference entific, technological, and economic adventure of the West,
were published in 1967, and Margins ofPhilosophy followed quickly in is limited in space and time and limits itself even as it is in
1972. Derrida did not explicitly address the question of colonialism, and the process of importing its laws upon the cultural areas that
indeed his own upbringing in Algeria, until much later in his career, and escaped it. (1976: 10)
his most sustained treatment ofthis subject matter is The Monolingualism
ofthe Other, published as recently as 1996. It is important, however, that Logocentrism offers an illusion of presence, as if to signify .c~ntrol
despite this initial reticence about Algeria, notions of excentricity and meaning, but Derrida argues that this ideology fails ~o admit I~S own Slt-
decentring have nevertheless been "central" to Derrida's thought from the uatedness and the intractable, unassimilable meanrngs that lie beyond
beginning. Derrida's work has always been concerned with alterity, with its reach. To translate this into the terms of Levinasian ethics, Derrida's
the supplementary traces accompanying the main thrust ofphilosophical endeavour will be to supplement logo centric philosophy with an ethical
discourses, and the decentring of those discourses through attention to call for attention to the Infinity it claims to totalize.
''other'' allusions within them. This gesture is associated with the dis- Derrida asserts that in Saussure's work, for example, the spoken
mantling ofthe hegemony of "Western" philosophy and its self-deluding language is coupled with phonetic writing, but ~y traces of the non-
ethnocentrism, and with a demand for increased attention to the other phonetic are seen as interruptions, moments of disturb~c~ th~t uns~t
that "the West" ignores or leaves out. "The West" is, as a result, itselfa con- tle the transparency of the logos, but do not upset his pnvilegrng o! Its
cept that must be undermined and denounced for its false self-presence rule. These interruptions are unruly traces of an otherness that reSIdes
and assumed security. Indeed, it can be argued that poststructuralist beyond the reach of a clearly "Western" des.ire for p~es~nce, but that
scepticism towards apparent hierarchies and institutional divisions was .Saussure is at pains to relegate to the margrns. Derridas next exam-
already rooted in postcoloniality, in the collapse of colonial ideology as ple is Levi-Strauss's Tristes tropiques (1976), in which he s~arly s,e~s
announced by the atrocities of the Algerian war. Deconstruction is not a privileging of a specifically "Western" conception of wnting. LeVl-
just an unravelling of"philosophica1 thought" in general, but precisely an Strauss analyses the "society without writing" (Derri~a 1976: .109) .of
overturning of "Western thought': its denial ofits hidden supplements, the Nambikwara of Brazil, but Derrida argues that this analySIS relies
its conceptual and cultural alterity. on a separation of speech and writing that is ethnocentric. Levi -Stra~ss
Of Grammatology is lone of Derrida's first works to offer a critique argues that the tribe's authentic oral culture is th~ colom~
that could be conceived as "postcolonial': Here Derrida explores the presence and its distribution of printed texts but, rn spIte of Itself, this

100 understanding postcolonialism derrida and bhabha 101

critique hinges on the very privileging of the logos central to Western search entirely in favour of an embrace of the play of signs. Once again,
thought. Levi-Strauss refuses to conceive of "drawing lines" as a form of Derrida's implication here is that anthropology, the very science of the
writing, and also conserves the immediacy and self-presence of speech other, has difficulty in remaining open to that other, to its intricacies
by naively distinguishing it from the supplementary structure ofwriting. and singularities, and has repeatedly relied on foundations conceived
The upshot is a fantasized vision of the Nambikwara's innocence fuelled by the ethnocentric anthropologist and not the object of enquiry. Later,
by a specifically European privileging of mastery and self-presence in in the "White Mythology" (in Margins of Philosophy), Derrida again
speech. Derrida's conclusion is that: undermines the self-created security of the "Western" episteme. Derrida
argues that "Western" metaphysics has systematically effaced the eth-
to recognise writing in speech, that is to say the differance and nocentric origin and myth on which it rests. White mythology claims
the absence of speech, is to begin to think the lure. There is the originary and centred status of its discourse and, in so doing, denies
no ethics without the presence of the other, and consequently, the self-supporting fabrication of its idiom.
without absence, dissemination, detour, differance, writing. The impact of Derrida's initial deconstruction of ethnocentrism on
(1976: 139-40) postcolonialism is significant and wide-ranging, and will emerge expli-
citly in my discussions of Bhabha, Khatibi and Spivak. Young is one of
An adherence to a narrow, restricted conception of speech consti- the first thinkers to explore the links between Derridean deconstruction
tutes a denial of the trace, of the alterity, that structures all writing. and postcolonial critique and, indeed, asserts that the inauguration of
This ties in with the "Western" myth of the certainty and hegemony of poststructuralism was not the upheavals of May 1968 but the Algerian
the logos. War of Independence. From this point of view, texts such as Of Gram-
Derrida's other important reading of Levi-Strauss, "Structure, Sign matology and Writing and Difference can be read as a new response to
and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" in Writing and Dif- the collapse of empire and the effects of that collapse on metaphysics.
ference, develops this charge of ethnocentrism and broadens it further Derrida's early intervention into the question of postcolonialism is not,
to deconstruct the very structures that shape and define "Western" however, without its difficulties, and has been conceived by a number
thought. Derrida begins by identifying the persistent "centre" that of critics to backfire. In the most general terms, the work is seen to be
structures the "Western" episteme. This centre serves to give thought excessively "textualisC in the sense that the reflection on language is
a point of presence, a fixed origin, and although it grounds thought it disengaged from colonial politics and inadequate to the demands of a
also remains outside the structure it creates. ParadOxically, "the con- rigorous political critique. I shall return to this question of Derrida's
cept of centred structure is in fact the concept of a play based on a politics shortly, but for the moment it is worth noting that Marxist post-
fundamental ground, a play constituted on the basis of a fundamental colonial thinkers such as Parry have little patience with the convolutions
immobility and a reassuring certitude, which is itself beyond the reach of the links between Derridean philosophy and actual colonial regimes.
of play" (Derrida 1978: 279). Up to a point, Levi-Strauss also relies Furthermore, Azzedine Haddour offers a detailed critique of Derrida's
on this concept of a centre as he persists in seeking to systematize his deconstructive gestures in OfGrammatology and Dissemination (1981),
investigations of other cultures. In the course of his researches, how- and suggests that the insistence on play obscures specific differences,
ever, Levi-Strauss later finds that this mythical "centre" is necessarily such as those of the colonized. This erosion of specific differences then
an illusion, and that his practice as an anthropologist instead resembles prevents the marginalized from forming a distinct community as a
"bricolage": the use of various instruments of analysis without the posit- symbol of resistance to the imposed culture. Haddour complains that
ing of an originary ground or centre. This process is then itself subject "to reduce difference to a play through which the subject of Western
to mythologization, but the analysis allows Derrida to show that anthro- metaphysics is constituted is to deny difference its agency and subjec-
pology, while devoted to the study of the other, has relied on the "West- tivity" (2000: 158). Dissemination is even, according to Haddour, akin
ern" construction of a centre, although this centre is always in tension to the colonial policy of assimilation, and the universalism ofDerrida's
with the "play" that escapes it. Interpretation as a result can proceed in thinking at the same time, problematically, makes all forms of oppres-
two ways: it can continue to pursue its own centre, or relinquish that sion appear the same.

102 understanding postcoionialism derrida and bhabha 103

Spivak offers a more specific critique of Of Grammatology in her citizenship under the Vichy government, despite their monolingual-
translator's preface. Spivak notes first that Derrida's conception of ism. Derrida repeats the refrain "I only have one language; it is not
"writing" risks elevating the term to the status of a transcendental mine" to evoke the Algerian Jews' specific sense of alienation and dis-
signifier, and secondly that Derrida retains a rather facile association possession when the Vichy government forced them to perceive that
between logo centrism and the West. And although he fleetingly dis- their culture and language did not belong to them. Consequently it
cusses Chinese writing in the first part of the text, for the most part may never be possible to "inhabit" or "possess" a language and, indeed,
he fails to consider the role and position of the East. Rey Chow devel- as we saw in the discussion of Sartre, Derrida signals that the colonizer
ops this critique in The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism too is alienated: "the master is nothing. And he does not have exclusive
(2002), and argues that Of Grammatology oddly insists on maintain- possession of anything" (ibid.: 23). But the Algerian Jews experienced
ing a certain boundary between East and West. Derrida argues that this dispossession in a traumatic manner when the Vichy government
Chinese is not phonetic but ideographic but, according to Chow, this demonstrated in practical terms their non-belonging within the lan-
conception of the Chinese language is mythical, and related to popu- guage they had thought was theirs.
lar stereotypes surrounding the "inscrutable Chinese': Consequently, In this way, Derrida's text shifts nervously between the universal
Derrida retains "a rhetorical essentialism whereby the East is typecast and the specific, between a conceptual reflection on the relation of all
as difference, a difference that, moreover, is seen in the apparently self- beings to language and a historically grounded discussion of Algerian
coincident or transparent form of the graphic, the ideogram" (Chow Jews during the Second World War. In exploring that shift, he asks us
2002: 63). In short, Derrida is guilty of categorizing and glossing over to consider the ways in which the colonizer, although fundamentally
the other, just as Western metaphysics blindly occludes non-European alienated, used his position to deny his own alienation and to concretize
difference. that of the other. In moving between these dimensions of the universal
These observations and criticisms add useful nuance to Derrida's and the particular, however, the text deliberately asks more questions
thinking but, in spite of its shortcomings, the critique of ethnocentrism than it answers: is Algeria only an example of a universal difficulty, or
remains influential to postcolonialism because it suggests that colo- is it unique in its brutal institutionalization of a generalized experience?
nialism operates within the very language of philosophy. Moreover, Can the philosopher extrapolate from Algeria to theorize about the
.if Of Grammatology contains a persistent blindness towards Eastern relation between language and sovereignty, or is that extrapolation a
cultures, the later exploration of colonialism in The Monolingualism betrayal of Algeria's uniqueness? How do Algerian Muslims fit in with
of the Other appears as more acutely self-conscious concerning the Derrida's discussion of Algerian Jews and colonialism more broadly?
difficulties of its own urge towards philosophical universalization. Postcolonial philosophy demands both that specific colonial experi-
In The Monolingualism of the Other, Derrida on one level sets out to ences serve as an example of a broader conceptual phenomenon, and
deconstruct the ethnocentrism of any "sovereign" language and exam- that that example announces itself as distinct from the law it never-
ines the alienation in language experienced by all speakers, including theless helps to elucidate.
those who claim hegemony. The universalism of this argument serves IfDerrida discusses the specific experience of Algerian Jews in The
to undermine the colonizer's claim to mastery, since it reminds us Monolingualism of the Other, however, it is at the same time important
that no speaker possesses his language and culture. Language always that Jewishness is at no point conceived as the name for an identifiable
suppresses without extinguishing alterity, and Derrida denounces the and determinate community. Derrida may be drawing attention to the
"sovereignty whose essence is always colonial, which tends, repres- experiences of a particular group of people, but this sharing does not
sively and irrepressibly, to reduce language to the One, that is, to the imply sameness, the determination of a resistant cultural collective. The
hegemony of the homogeneous" (1998: 39-40). The tyranny of colo- Algerian Jews were at the same time cut off from Jewish culture, con-
nial culture brings material violence, but it also reveals in condensed taminated by Christian culture and internally fragmented. In a more
form the oppressiveness of any language and culture. At the same time, recent essay on Jewishness entitled 'i\braham, fautre" (2003), Derrida
however, Derrida's analysis here is clearly grounded in the specific con- explains that if he has not frequently mentioned his Judaism in his
text of the Algerian Jews and explores the community's loss of French philosophy, this is because he belongs without belonging to both Jewish

derrida and bhabha 105

104 understanding postcolonialis.m
culture and religion. Once again, however, this raises the question of back into the universalist structure that the fleeting autobiographical
the dynamic interplay between the law and the example, since Derrida references set out to problematize. The analysis of colonialism requires
argues that Jewishness is defined by a resistance to communitarianism, a resistance to the universal, but Derrida also refuses the identification
by diaspora and dispersal. For this reason, he who appears to be the of an authorial subject position that would over-determine him, so that
least Jewish is in fact the most Jewish. Jewishness cannot be manifested the text is condemned to a constant and paradoxical movement against
or claimed in an exemplary way, but this resistance to the claiming of each stance it adopts.
exemplarity is nevertheless an exemplary characteristic of Jewishness. In its curious and irresolute shifting between the universal, the spe-
The Jews were the community who were specifically excluded under cific and the singular, The Monolingualism of the Other provocatively
colonialism in Algeria, then, but their specificity lies in the absence of questions the practice of postcolonial philosophy and self-consciously
any claim for specificity. Indeed, the one text in which Derrida does signals its traps. Derrida's postcolonialism undermines the colonizer's
explore his own Judaism, the fragmented musings of "Circonfession" erroneous claim to possess his language and either to assimilate or reject
(Circumfession) (in Bennington & Derrida 1993), explores the traumas the marginalized but culturally diverse speakers of that language, and
of the mother's death and of circumcision while making the identifica- reveals instead the master's hidden contingency and alienation. Having
tion of a clear subject position impossible. Derrida's recourse to the Signalled this universal dispossession, however, Derrida pinpoints the
specific in his reflection on the situation of Algerian Jews at the same particular experience of the Algerian Jews in being dispossessed of
time problematizes and disseminates that specificity. their citizenship and of a sense of belonging in language, although he
To return to The Monolingualism of the Other, Derrida here too uncovers at the same time the aporia between the need to present that
problematizes and moves beyond both the universal and the specific experience as unique and its exemplification and concretization of the
with a call for attention to a singular autobiographical subject. Derrida broader law. In drawing attention to the alienation brought about at a
undermines the gesture of philosophical neutralization by incorporat- specific historical moment, moreover, Derrida also refuses to accord
ing scattered musings on his own singular past, so as to trouble his urge the Algerian Jewish community a false determinism that would once
towards universalization. Nevertheless, these musings are not produced again tyrannize and totalize the singular differences of distinct Jews.
by a knowable individual, but express the intermittent anxieties of a Although revealing for a reflection on the open-ended community of
fragmented, ghostly "1': which in turn theorizes its evacuation from the Judaism, however, Derrida's analysis somewhat problematically does not
exegesis. The text is haunted by singular traces of the writer's "self': but include discussion of the French oppression of Algerian Muslims and
which the writer can never catch up with and encapsulate. The turn to this raises further questions about the status of the universal. Finally,
autobiography is an anxious expression of resistance to the universaliza- Derrida subverts both the gesture of philosophical generalization and
tion of postcolOnial critique, but the text also never fully encapsulates the examination of a historical specificity further in his pursuit of a form
the singular "I" of the enunciation. It is "an account of what will have of individuation that refuses positionality or the location of a theoretical
placed an obstacle in the way of this auto-exposition for me" (Derrida norm. The singular ''1'' ofDerrida's own autobiographical project, and his
1998: 70). endeavours at self-exploration, '1et all my specters loose" (ibid.: 73). The
In a further twist, moreover, the work begins with the confession "I Monolingualism ofthe Other displays the tension between "theory" itself
only have one language': but the first person is already distinguished and the necessity for a form of writing that does not fall into the same
from any authorial voice because the quotation is set up as a hypotheti- traps of totalization and determinism that colonial discourse set for the
cal statement, analysed and unravelled in turn by a second apparently colonized. Derrida's singularity, however, is necessarily depersonalized,
authorial voice. On one level, this further troubles the notion that the with the result that that singularity once again, paradoxically, becomes
singular ''1'' of Derrida's persona can be pinned down in language, but universal. The text demonstrates in this way the contradictory demands
the "I" also, at the same time, acquires a certain philosophical general- of postcolonialism and the tensions inherent in the philosophical con-
ity, and the statement suggests once more that all speakers fail to pos- templation of the limits of colonial or totalizing thinking.
sess their language. What might have been read as an autobiographical
narrative ofDerrida's own experience of disp0ssession turns out to fall

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106 understanding postcolonialism
Derrida's ethics and politics to subscribe to everything he says" (1986: 74; my translation). Derrida
nevertheless goes on to explain that this does not mean that he thinks in
It is perhaps already apparent that Derrida's critique of ethnocentrism exactly the same way as Levinas and, indeed, "Violence and Metaphys-
and colonialism is undertaken in the name of ethics. Moreover, Derrida ics" also explores what might be conceived according to the later notion
has always been committed to exploring and developing Levinasian of the Saying, the traces of meaning that linger behind Levinas's overt
ethics not only by means of the deconstruction of ethnocentric meta- philosophical propositions. First, Derrida explores Levinas's rejection
physics but also in his very reading strategies. Deconstruction is not of the metaphysics of Heideggerian ontology and its neutralization of
just an engagement with Levinasian ethics, but performs that ethics in the other. Having worked through this engagement with Heidegger,
its careful attention to the other's text and in its teasing out of hidden however, he proceeds to argue that Levinas in fact himself relies on a
traces. Derrida's reading practice is precisely concerned neither simply certain ontology in his understanding of the relation with the other.
to repeat the premises of the original (this would not be ethical since it The face of the other is also a body and a being. Next, in interrogating
would reduce the text to the rule of the Same), nor to read into the oth- Levinas's relation with Husserl and the former's insistence on the Infinity
ers text meanings produced and imposed from the outside. Rather, the of alterity, Derrida discovers that Levinas's "infinitely other" fol~s ~ on
reading practice carried out across Derrida's works consists in an ethical itself, since 'oeing other than itself, it is not what it is. Therefore, It IS not
confrontation with the other's discourse and a rigorous engagement infinitely other, etc:' (1978: 185). Derrida rejects Levinas's. voc~bul~y
with the potentially infinite meanings that linger beneath the surface of "scission" or division between the Same and the Other, smce ifbemg
of the writing. The text is conceived as a discourse in the Levinasian is divided it must also be at once Same and Other, and the opposition
sense, in that it is not the communication of a specified message but a collapses. Levinas's own language turns against him in forcing a rupture
space of encounter and a forum for the pursuit of multiple allusions. or an opposition at odds with the original thought. Levinas's own meta-
This conception of an encounter with the text's openness or Infinity, physics turns out to presuppose the transcendental phenomenology~at
with the chains of associations that proliferate beneath the work's arti- it set out to overturn. Returning to the relation with Heidegger, Dernda
fice, can also be seen as an exploration of the Saying behind the state- then argues that Heidegger's thought is in reality not so far ~ro~ that of
ments of the Said. If the Said names the text's ostensible content, then Levinas, that being is not in Heidegger the anonymous prmople per-
Derrida works away at the proliferating possibilities of the Saying, the ceived by Levinas and that, indeed, ontology commands ~e respe~ of
traces of meaning that are not controlled and determined by the grasp the other for what he is. Heideggerian ontology does not lillply ethical
of the Said. This reading practice devoted to the aspects of the text that violence, and Heideggerian being does not have the mastery Levinas
appear to work against its apparent assertions is called cl6tural read- perceived. For Derrida, then, ethics in purely Levinasian te:ms is imP.os-
ing, since it perceives the text's closure at the same time as it ethically sible: Levinas's attempt to write an ethical philosophy dellles the ethICal
searches beyond that apparently enclosed framework of meaning. For precepts it supports. Nevertheless, Derrida's own reading is in a sense
Simon Critchley, "a cl6tural reading analyses a text in terms of how it still faithful to Levinasian ethics, precisely because it troubles any poten-
is divided against itself in both belonging to logo centric conceptuality tial systematization and uncovers the Saying beneath th~ see~g~y
and achieving the breakthrough beyond that conceptuality" (Critchley rational philosophical account. Ethics emerges performatively m thIS
1992: 30). Derrida's readings in this way explore both the text's primary reading encounter rather than by means of philosophical expositio~.
content and the traces that exceed that content. The Monolingualism of the Other and "Violence and MetaphysICS
Derrida offers several specific readings of Levinas, beginning most suggest, then, that an ethically aware philosophy does not set up secure
famously with the essay "Violence and Metaphysics" published in Writ- proposals, but either self-consciously ques~ons itself or em.erges ten-
ing and Difference. Importantly, however, this reading itselfboth expli- tatively via reading. This philosophy attentive to otherness IS also not
cates Levinas's position in Totality and Infinity and works against the a critique, implying a process of judgement, nor a method .or ,system,
text's grain. It is clear that, on one level, Derrida is wholly persuaded but a sort of unfolding that must remain incomplete. IfDerndas extra-
by Levinas's thought, and in an interview in Alterites he affirms: "before ordinary gift lies in his meticulous, attentive readings both of himself
a thought like that of Levinas, I never have any objection. I am ready and of the other, however, this ethical writing remains at one remove

108 understanding postcolonialism derrida and bhabha 109

from the practical demands of politics and the creation of an active, ta philon), without the calculation of majorities, without identifiable,
political assertion or position. Following Levinas p..imself, Derrida for stabilizable, representable subjects, all equal" (1997: 22). This duality can
this reason separates politics and ethics, even though he insists that they be seen to inform Derrida's postcolonialism, even ifhe does not theo-
must nevertheless be thought alongside one another. Ethics names the rize the aporia clearly in this context. An ethical anti-colonial critique
commitment to the form of reading summarized above: it is the patient requires an awareness of the singularities that exceed the colonial law,
engagement with infinity in discourse and an open-ended confrontation but a political resistance movement at the same time would rely on the
with alterity. Politics, on the other hand, requires decision-making, the formation of a working community. The Monolingualism of the Other
creation of a specified standpoint and argument, and for Derrida works attempts to engage with both levels, but the disjunction between them
against the openness necessary for ethical thought Returning to the is one that the analysis struggles to smooth over.
question of Derrida's contribution to postcolonialism, we find that he Derrida's later Writing on Levinas similarly displays this leap. In Adieu
offers an ethical critique of ethnocentrism, and of the colonial, sover- to Emmanuel Levinas Derrida further elucidates Levinas's concept of
eign language, but perceives this as a process entirely distinct from the hospitality; and notes that for Levinas hospitality is unconditional and
creation of a practical, anti-colonial resistance strategy. Such a coherent absolute. While the concept of hospitality relies on the existence of bar-
strategy remains beyond the boundaries of his project, and would work riers, it also negates itself in its insistence on absolute openness and the
against the rigorous undermining of metaphysics and ethnocentrism absence of a need for consensus or commensurability. In On Hospital-
that he conceives as the foundation for colonial thinking. This absence ity (2000), moreover, Derrida separates the ethical "law" of hospitality,
of a political strategy in Derrida's thought does not mean that this is the unconditional demand that we accept and welcome any stranger,
unthinkable for him, but that its demands would run counter to the and the "laws" of hospitality, or practical conditions and functioning
ethics that he retains as his priority. norms. The law of hospitality allows for the singularity of every visitor,
Many of Derrida's more politically oriented works explicitly theorize whereas the laws of hospitality are built on workable codes and practical
this division between ethics and politics and consequently uncover the principles. Ethics, then, demands infinite openness, but politics rests
aporia-fracturing concepts such as hospitality and democracy, which on concrete issues arising from immigration law, citizenship and the
in turn can help to inform our understanding of his postcolonialism. granting of asylum. In this way Derrida suggests that Levinas's concept
In The Other Heading (1992), for example, Derrida's analysis of Europe of hospitality contains an aporetic split, but that, far from losing himself
and of the conception of European hegemony ends with a series of dual in an abstract and impracticable ethics, Levinas obliges us to continue to
requirements, a set of paradoxes necessary for a responsible understand- conceive this unconditional ethics even as we contemplate the political
ing of the European community but severed by the contrasting demands position of the stranger. Ethics and politics are radically distinct, even
of ethics and politics. Responsibility requires both that we conserve opposed, modes of reflection, and yet they must be thought alongside
European memory and a sense of communal identity; and that Europe one another. Once again, this double bind within the concept ofhospi-
be conceived as open to all that exceeds her borders. A conception of tality can serve to theorize also the duality in postcolonialism between
Europe necessitates "this double contradictory imperative" that we open an awareness of the singular migrant subject and the potential, necessary
ourselves to all that exceeds reason without allowing politics itself to integration of that subject within the state.
become irrational (1992: 79). So an ethical notion of Europe is one that The aporetic structure of Derrida's thinking on politics and ethics
explores its permeability and incompletion, but some conception of a has been the subject of much controversy. According to Morag Patrick
shared culture and, indeed, of rationality is indispensable to the politi- (1997), Derrida helps to reinvent the political because he shows that
cal functioning of Europe. More broadly, in The Politics of Friendship political thinking is not self-same, and that every decision glosses over
Derrida goes on to argue that democracy works as an (ethical) critique the singular possibilities excluded by its remit Geoffrey Bennington
of totalitarianism because it privileges the differences between its par- (2000) concedes that Derrida is not an activist but insists that his
ticipants, but it also relies on a political notion of community: "there achievement is to inscribe alterity into the heart of political reflection.
is no democracy without respect for irreducible singularity or alterity, For Critchley (1992), conversely, Derrida's work contains an impasse
but there is no democracy without 'the community of friends' (koina and fails to negotiate the treacherous path between ethics and politics,

110 understanding postco!onialism derrida and bhabha 111

and certainly, as I have suggested, the direct translation of ethical phil- and stops the critic from falling into complacency when contemplating
osophy into anti-colonial political critique is not attempted anywhere an evolving and still traumatized field.
in Derrida's work. Nevertheless, Critchley concludes his chapter on
Derrida's politics by returning to Levinas's movement from the ethi-
cal relation to the intervention of the third party, and argues that this Homi Bhabha
movement establishes a transition between the ethical relation and the
question of multiple others, leading in turn to the contemplation of The work of Bhabha is perhaps best known for its explicit endeavour
justice towards those others. This way of shifting from ethics to politics to combine poststructuralism and postcolonialism. Bhabha's essays are
excludes totalitarian politics (for Levinas, National Socialism, but for littered with references to the work of Derrida, and many of his key
our current purposes this could also be colonial sovereignty), and cre- concepts are taken from the latter's philosophy. Colonial discourse, for
ates the foundation for a politics based on the acceptance of multiplicity example, is conceived as structured in spite of itself by the movement
and difference. of the "supplement': by chains of meaning that it cannot possess, and
There can be no doubt that Derrida's contribution to postcolonialism both colonial and colonized cultures are "deconstructed" by means of
is not as clearly politicized as that of Fanon, Sartre or Gandhi, but it is attention to their complex and deferred significatory processes. Simi-
nevertheless crucial in its careful consideration of the contrasting ethics larly, Bhabha uses the concept of "dissemiNation" to explore how the
and politics that might inform postcolonial thought. His separation and construction of a national identity always covers over traces and patches
juxtaposition of ethics and politics perhaps helps us to think again why of discrepant cultural meanings produced by that nation's heterogene-
Fanon's militant call for decolonization in Algeria chimes discordantly ous and plural people. His discussions of colonialism and resistance
with his universal humanism, for example, but it also encourages us to share with Derrida's work a resistance to binary oppositions and a
attend to both aspects of the work and to try to think them through meticulous attention to the ambivalence underpinning any apparently
together. Reading Fanon through Derrida, we can conceive the commu- fixed and assertive subject position. Bhabha adds to Derrida's explora-
nitarianism of Fanon's vision as a practical response that simultaneously tion of the overlap between ethnocentrism and logo centrism a further
includes, on another level, an awareness of Algerian multiplicity and the engagement with the mechanics of colonial power and with the ways in
self-creation of each oppressed singular being. Derrida's own political . which minority voices trouble the hegemonic cultural and national dis-
thinking is evidently never territorial, as Fanon's intermittently is, and courses operating on them. Indeed, more than once he criticizes Der-
in apparently prioritizing ethics it does not help to theorize the reclaim- rida for remarking on colonialism only in passing, and for not paying
ing of the land from the hands of the oppressor. Derrida's innovation is sufficient attention to specific and determinate systems of oppression.
nevertheless his understanding of the simultaneous division and com- Nevertheless, Bhabha's more consistent attention to colonialism scarcely
plicity between a conception of something like territorial politics and makes his thought more militantly politicized, and his focus remains,
the ethical critique of totalitarianism. It is not possible, according to like that ofDerrida, ethical or at least "ethical political': Indeed, if much
Derrida, to address the political and the ethical by the same means, but of Bhabha's work is descriptive of the workings of colonial or migrant
by tending to them at the same time on different levels we might come culture, he also frequently slips into prescription and stresses the ethical
closer to an understanding of the complexity and multidimensionality requirement that we "elude the politics of polarity and emerge as others
of postcolonialism. The Monolingualism of the Other teaches us that a of our selves" (Bhabha 1994: 39). He even, iffleetingly, draws on Levinas
universalized deconstruction of claims for linguistic mastery reveals and argues that the notion of ethical proximity helps to unsettle notions
colonialism's ethical transgression, but the discussion of the specific of territoriality and national belonging.
exclusion of Algerian Jews operates on another level, and the relation Bhabha was born into the small Parsi community of Bombay in 1949,
between these two levels remains uneasy. Derrida shows that postcolo- . and he has more than once emphasized that his was a minority culture.
nialism cannot be a holistic critique; it must continually shift and nego- Nevertheless, having received his undergraduate degree from the (then)
tiate between its divergent ethical and political requirements, but it is University of Bombay, he went on to do graduate work at Oxford Uni-
this dynamism that prevents the field from becoming programmatic versity, taught at Sussex and Chicago, and now occupies the illustrious

derrida and bhabha 113

112 understanding postcolonial ism
position of Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard. notion of a postcolonial philosophy or theory, however, Bhabha goes
Critics have argued that his assimilation into the American academy on to champion the sorts of double movement performed in Derrida's
and membership of the cultural elite, together with the abstraction of work, whereby the philosopher deconstructs philosophy from within, or
his writing style, distance him disastrously from the marginalized and uses the language oflogocentrism to undermine logo centrism. Bhabha
oppressed subjects about whom he writes. Indeed, it is clear that Bhabha's then adds to Derrida's approach a more politicized angle, as he recalls
highly knOwing and at times abstruse philosophy is not concerned with John Stuart Mill's argument that political knowledge has to come about
the conditions affecting colonized or migrant people's everyday lives. through dialogue, debate and dissension, and suggests that despite Mill's
Like Derrida, however, his achievement is perhaps less to conceive a rationalism, this argument reveals an understanding of the presence of
postcolonial politics than to show how colonialism operates within dis- otherness at work in the creation of knowledge. Theoretical discourse,
course itself and to draw attention to the delusions of modes of thinking similarly, must attend to alterity in its pursuit of knowledge, and it
that claim to know and assimilate the other. He uncovers the ambiva- must resist both logo centrism and essentialism, the drive (falsely) to
lence of colonial discourse, the limits of the grasp of the colonial lan- define and categorize its subjects, even as it inevitably claims a new
guage over its subjects, and undermines colonialism by focusing on its authority. In reading Mill, Bhabha's purpose is to confer on Derrida's
loopholes and blind spots. Bhabha criticizes Said for presenting colonial deconstruction oflogocentrism and ethnocentrism an emphasis on the
discourse as :fixed and for configuring West and East or colonizer and resonance of this self-conscious theorizing for political representation. If
colonized as reified in a binary opposition. Bhabha's aim is instead to it is concerned with language and discourse, theory nevertheless offers
reveal the anxiety at work in colonial narratives, and he draws on Freud important insights into political knowledge, because it opens up the
and Lacan in order to analyse the neuroses structuring discourses on space between the political objective and its slippery representation. In
self and other, and the "uncanny" that the colonizer sets out to occlude. Bhabha's terms, "denying an essentialist logic and a mimetic referent to
Anxiety in Freud is a temporally ambivalent state, "at once the 'recall' of political representation is a strong, principled argument against political
a situation - its memorial- and its performative anticipation or expecta- separatism of any colour, and cuts through the moralism that usually
tion" (Bhabha 1996: 192), and Bhabha uses this notion of a borderline accompanies such claims" (ibid.: 27). A theoretical understanding of
temporality to argue that culture too can be seen as anxiously hovering the slippage between discourse and referent works directly against both
between sedimentation in the past and a future reinvention. Colonial colonial assimilation and racist determinism, since both rely on classify-
and national discourses rely nervously on the notion of a collective past ing and dividing self and other, inside and outside, black and white.
while failing to catch up with the multiple narratives and practices that Bhabha then conceptualizes this slippage in language by inventing
make up their disjunctive present and future. Bhabha's psychoanalytic his own theory of the Third Space. The Third Space is not, as it sounds,
approach here is evidently far removed from empiricism, but its success an identifiable alternative position to those of colonizer and colonized,
is nevertheless this inscription of doubt into the production of any dis- or East and West. Rather, it names the gap in enunciation between
course of assimilation. And again, as in Derrida, this helps us to rethink the subject of a proposition and the subject of the enunciation: that is,
or conceive differently the potentially assimilatory drive of theory or between the production of the statement, with all its contextual con-
philosophy itself the ambivalence of colonial discourse is "a necessary tingencies, and the other to which the statement refers. It names the
caution against generalizing the contingencies and contours of local interstices between sign and referent, the Derridean movement of traces
circumstance, at the very moment at which a transnational, 'migrant' of meaning along the chain of associations, and Bhabha conceives this
knowledge of the world is most urgently needed" (Bhabha 1994: 214). as a locus of cultural ambivalence as well as productivity:
The opening chapter ofBhabha's famous collection of essays The Loca-
tion of Culture prefaces the ensuing analyses of colonialism and culture The intervention of the Third Space of enunciation, which
with a reflection on "theory" itself. Bhabha notes the frequent criticism makes the structure of meaning and reference an ambivalent
that theory is "the elite language of the socially and culturally privi- process, destroys this mirror of representation in which cul-
leged" (1994: 19) and asserts that he is alert to the dangers of assuming tural knowledge is customarily revealed as an integrated, open,
authority by producing knowledge of the other. In defence of the very expanding code. Such an intervention quite properly challenges

114 understanding postcolonialism derrida and bhabha 115

our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogeniz- that splits his presence, distorts his outline, breaches his bound-
ing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary Past, kept aries, repeats his action at a distance, disturbs and divides the
alive in the national tradition of the People. In other words, the very time of his being. (Ibid.: 44)
disruptive temporality of enunciation displaces the narrative of
the Western nation which Benedict Anderson so perceptively Similarly, the native too is split: he wants both to occupy the place of the
describes as being written in homogeneous, serial time. colonizer and to maintain his difference from him, as well as his anger
(Ibid.: 37) towards him. IfLacan teaches that identity is constructed in the gaze of
the other, and "bears the mark of the splitting in the Other place from
Theory is necessary according to Bhabha, then, because its attention which it comes" (ibid.: 45), then Fanon's colonizer and colonized also
to language and representation allow us to understand properly the identify themselves on the basis of this doubling of self and other and
ambivalence of culture, and the violence and delusion of claims to cul- the alienation that arises from it. Fanon's apparently Manichaean struc-
tural purity, determinism and separatism. It is also perhaps significant ture is troubled by this ambivalent doubling and splitting created by the
that theory itself might contain this sort of anxiety or slippage, but we construction of the self through the image of the other. This reading of
can use our theoretical knowledge to make ourselves better readers Fanon deliberately glosses over his humanism, his existentialism and
of theory. Bhabha argues later in the work that Foucault, for example, his militancy; indeed, Bhabha openly confesses that his "remembering
may initially omit to comment on the role of colonialism in Western Fanon" paradoxically requires a certain forgetting, presumably of the
thought, but the colOnizing mission is referred to only subsequently in moments in his work where he shies away from what Bhabha sees as
passing. This movement, however, itself opens up "the space for a new his most provocative insights. This strategy of reading Fanon selectively,
discursive temporality, another place of enunciation that will not allow through the lens ofLacanian ambivalence, has perhaps not surprisingly
the argument to expand into an unproblematic generality" (ibid.: 196). generated much controversy, to which I shall turn later in the chapter.
The gap in Foucault's discourse is precisely what allows his theory's Faithful to his own understanding of "theory': however, Bhabha's com-
productive expansion. mentary on Fanon reads between its lines, draws out its anxieties and
Bhabha also famously reads Fanon in such a way as to highlight the locates in Fanon's allusions to psychic alienation and uncertainty the
ambivalence of colonial discourse in his work, rather than to elucidate core of his subversive intent.
his call for revolutionary action. Bhabha's Fanon reveals the colonial Many of Bhabha's essays in The Location of Culture propose
culture's fetishization of black identity and locates a force of resistance new definitions of key postcolonial concepts, and it will be worth
in the exploration of cultural interstices. Bhabha knows that Fanon summarizing the most influential of these here. The first of these is
ardently desires complete political transformation, but argues that his the stereotype, one of the central tropes of colonial discourse, which is
inSight lies in his perception of uncertainty within processes of identifi- for Bhabha not merely a caricature or :fixed image, but an idea whose
cation and self-creation. The very disjunction ofFanon's famous phrase iteration masks its producer's uncertainty. Colonial discourse desires
"the Negro is not. Any more than the white man" is conceived to per- "fixity': it seeks to know and define the other, but the repetition of the
form the rupture and dispersal of racial identity, and Bhabha's language stereotype betrays the absence of proof and the real precariousness
stresses this displacement and anxiety and not Fanon's more militant call of that :fixed image. In commenting on the colonial search for fixity,
for agency. Furthermore, Bhabha explores the psychoanalytic under- Bhabha argues that:
pinnings of Fanon's work. His analysis turns on the enigma of Fanon's
Freudian question: what does the blackman want! Bhabha examines the the stereotype, which is its major discursive strategy, is a form
fear and desire of the colonizer and the splitting of identity as a result of of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is
the meeting of black and white. He applauds in Fanon's work: always "in place': already known, and something that must be
anxiously repeated ... as ifthe essential duplicity of the Asiatic
the image of post-Enlightenment man tethered to, not con- or the bestial sexual licence of the African needs no proof, can
fronted by, his dark reflection, the shadow of colonized man, never really, in discourse, be proved.. (Ibid.: 66)

116 understanding postco!onialism derrida and bhabha 117

The stereotype is used to justify and prop up the colonial project of sub- only in part, they reveal the limits of the colonizer's drive to authorize,
jugation, but further analysis of the function of the stereotype reveals regulate and control his subjects. Bhabha goes on to use Lacails under-
it as another indicator of the ambivalence of colonial discourse. The standing of mimicry as camouflage to stress how it functions in the same
uncertainty of the stereotype is what Bhabha accuses Said of neglecting way as metonymy: it is "not a harmonization or repression of difference,
in his discussion of the correlation between latent and manifest Orien- but a form of resemblance, that differs from or defends presence by
talism, which for Bhabha revolves around an unproblematic intentional- displaying in part, metonymically" {ibid.: 90). It is disturbing precisely
ity. Said's writing alludes in passing to the simultaneous recognition and because it hides no essence, no clear identity, but inscribes a subtle,
disavowal of cultural difference through the stereotype, but in quoting partial alterity into a discourse that had conceived itself as self-same.
him Bhabha opens a sequence of questions relating to the projection, Mimicry lies at the limits of what is acceptable and familiar: it plays
fear and desire that subtend the colonizer's discursive gesture. Further- by the rules of the colonizer but at the same time works against them.
more, Bhabha's stereotype is a fetishization, originally the result of the Like the stereotype, it announces the falsity of the colonial discourse of
anxiety of castration and sexual difference, and it functions to smooth certainty and self-presence, and questions the identity of what might
over that anxiety by providing an illusory wholeness. The fetish disa- have been taken for the "original': If for Bhabha mimicry borders on
vows difference and sets out to restore an original presence. Iffor Freud mockery, however, and could function as a powerful force of subver-
the fetish plays between the affirmation that "all men have penises" and sion, it is noteworthy that the Latin American thinker Octavio Paz, with
the anxiety ofa potential lack, in the colonial context the fetish vacillates whom Bhabha does not engage, conceives it much more as a sign of
between the assumption that "all men have the same skinlracelculture" emptiness and self-loss; mimicry, dissimulation and irony are "traits of.
and the awareness of what are experienced as disturbing racial and a subjected people who tremble and disguise themselves in the presence
cultural differences (ibid.: 75). This is for Bhabha beautifully demon- of the master" (Paz 1967: 62). Bhabha conceives mimicry as a potential
strated by Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, where the stereotype that means to deconstruct colonial discourse, whereas in Paz it is a symptom
disavows difference by means of the "white mask" only splits the image ofa hermeticism built out of the fear, mistrust and suspicion still present
of the subject from itself. Bhabha's prescriptive ethics emerges here in in Mexico long after the end of the colonial period.
his concluding recommendation for a recognition of difference that Another of Bhabha's related, much-celebrated concepts is that
precisely liberates it from the fixation of the stereotype. of hybridity, which again serves to undermine the fixed opposition
In addition to this uncovering of the stereotype's uncertainty, Bhabha , between colonizer and colonized and to draw attention to movement
also proposes mimicry as a sign of the ambivalence of colonial dis- . and play within the colonial discourse. In the chapter "Signs taken for
course. The colonial literature of writers as diverse as Kipling, Forster, Wonders': Bhabha discusses the Indian catechist Anund Messeh's asser-
Orwell and V. S. Naipaul is, according to Bhabha, peopled with "mllnic tion, in 1817, that the Indians should accept the sacrament and help
men': natives by birth who have taken on the tastes, attitudes and beliefs to create "a culturally and linguistically homogeneous India" (Bhabha
of the colonial culture. Such men are the fruits of the mission, conceived 1994: 105). Building on the analysis of mimicry, however, Bhabha argues
by Thomas Macaulay in 1835, to create a class of "interpreters'" who that the English book is not accepted as "a plenitudinous presence" but
would mediate between the colonial authorities and the masses they that it is received in a context so far removed from its production that
seek to govern. If, in their mimicking, they appear to reinforce the power it is altered by the transfer:
of colonial discourse, however, Bhabha points out that mimicry in fact
exposes colonialism's excess and expansion. Mimicry is not sameness, As a Signifier of authority, the English book acquires its mean-
but" a subject ofa difference that is almost the same but not quite" (ibid.: ing after the traumatic scenario of colonial difference, cul-
86), and the act of imitation always includes slippages and traces of tural or racial, returns the eye of power to some prior, archaic
alterity. On the one hand, mimicry appears to ensure the control and image or identity. Paradoxically, however, such an image can
regulation of the native, but on the other hand, it inserts difference into neither be "original" - by virtue of the act of repetition that
the dominant discourse of colonial power. The mimic men seem to constructs it - nor "identical" - by virtue of the difference that
be "authorized versions of otherness': but in mimicking the colonizer defines it. (Ibid.: 107)

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Bhabha again uses Derrida here to explore how the colonial text "does own terms. This duality is also conceived by Bhabha as a split between
not occupy a simple place" (ibid.: 108, quoting Derrida 1981), although the pedagogical, that is the creation and propagation of a shared past,
he stresses that his endeavour is not so much to explore the process of and the performative, or the self-renewing cultural practices and acts
interpretation as to question the propagation of power through texts. of the people. Again, Bhabha's thinking is deeply indebted to Derrida
The upshot of the analysis here, moreover, is to evoke the process of here, as he conceives the performative as a "supplementary movement"
hybridization: the dissemination of the text was supposed to assimilate at work within the writing of the pedagogical.
the natives, but in fact it recreates the colonial culture as hybridized Bhabha's highly abstract theorizing, and his extensive use of decon-
and different from itself. Hybridity "displays the necessary deformation struction, have been much criticized by other postcolonial thinkers.
and displacement of all sites of discrimination and domination" (ibid.: Many have objected to his convoluted writing style and to its lack
112); it names the expansion of the colonial culture beyond itself and of engagement with the material effects of colonialism on colonized
outside its much treasured borders. Hybridity is the effect of the drive peoples. One of Bhabha's most rigorous critics is Parry, who laments
towards the cultural assimilation of the colonized, but at the same time that the extensive focus on ambivalence in colonial discourse obscures
it subverts the authority and self-presence of the imposed culture. It is both the horrilic violence of the colonial enterprise and the force of
not an alternative identity, but an effect that can in turn be deployed as the colonized's counter-insurgency. The discussion oflanguage effects
a ruse against the authority from which it is, in part, derived. occludes the real horror of armed struggle, and the focus on anxiety
The last of Bhabha's reinvented concepts is that of the nation, which and the uncanny within colonial discourse replaces any understanding
emerges as a plural site of dispersed cultural meanings. Bhabha's edited of the role of concrete resistance. Bhabha's reading of Fanon, for exam-
collection Nation and Narration (1990) contains essays by a series of ple, makes the latter into a "premature poststructuralist" and tempers
major philosophers of nationalism, and tracks an evolving awareness his revolutionary ethos. Parry also concedes that subjectivity is indeed
of the nation's multi-layered construction. Bhabha's introduction argues often "hybridized" or criss-crossed with multiple identifications, but she
that the nation is "Janus-faced" because it is caught between progres- argues that this does not mean that the colonial situation did not pit
sion and regression, but also because its rhetoric distances it from its communities against one another in an acutely antagonistic struggle.
people; it is, then, "a ngure of prodigious doubling" (1990: 3). Bhabha's Bhabha may be right to question the division of colonizer and colonized
essay "DissemiNation': printed in Nation and Narration and again in The into a binary opposition, but in so doing his thinking also glosses over
LocatIon of Culture, argues above all that the narrative of the nation is the real tensions brought about by colonial imposition. The difficulty
subject to a time-lag, which means that the imagined unity of the nation with Bhabha's thought, then, is that it "dispenses with the notion of
can never catch up with the discrepant "shreds and patches of cultural conflict, which certainly does infer antagonism, but contra Bhabha, does
signification" produced by its plural people. Furthermore, the narrative not posit a simplistically unitary and closed structure to the adversial
of the nation must be thought of in "double time": forces" (Parry 2004: 56). Furthermore, Parry reads into Bhabha's ethics
a somewhat facile "recommendation of coalition politics and rainbow
the people are the historical "objects" of a nationalist peda- alliances" that might be conceivable for the "privileged postcolonial" but
gogy, giving the discourse an authority that is based on the that means little to the genuinely disenfranchised (ibid.: 7l).
pre-given or constituted historical origin in the past; the people In addition, Bhabha's con.cept of hybridity has been challenged by
are also the "subjects" of a process of signification that must more than one critic. Young is largely sympathetic to Bhabha, but his
erase any prior or originary presence of the nation-people to Colonial Desire (1995) nevertheless reminds us of the lingering, prob-
demonstrate the prodigious, living principles of the people as lematic connotations of the term "hybrid': Young traces its nineteenth-
contemporaneity. (1994: 145) century associations with corruption, dilution and degeneration, and
explores potentially ongoing anxieties with the loss of racial purity. The
This means that the narrative of the nation claims to root itselfin the past study is in no sense a critique of Bhabha, but perhaps a reminder that
of its people, as if to assure a shared origin, but it must also erase that the term "hybridity" is not necessarily a celebratory figure for cultural
past if it is to grant its people the ability to narrate their culture in their enrichment. Rather more acerbically than Young, Antony Easthorpe

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argues that the problem with Bhabha's concept ofhybridity is that it is notes that Guha's own concept of agency stresses "the hybridised signs
constantly opposed to non-hybridity, and this in itselfbecomes another and sites" (1994: 187), for example of the Tebhaga movement in Bengal
unhelpful binary opposition. Bhabha's writing suggests that it is either in 1946 (where peasants demanded to reduce the proportion of their
possible to have a complete identity, or no identity at all, and even worse, crops taken by landlords). A thinking of agency is compatible with an
Easthorpe asserts that he treats hybridity as a "transcendental signified" awareness of ambivalence and hybridization, even if Bhabha's focus is
(1998: 345). Bart Moore-Gilbert (1997) notes that, for Bhabha, all cul- more on the complexity of its construction than on the mechanics of
tures are hybrid, but this means that it is not clear how useful the term is its deployment.
in describing specifically postcolonial experience. Bhabha's writing slips Bhabha's recent work on minority rights is also more clearly politi-
into a universalism that is not necessarily productive for the invention cal than the essays of The Location of Culture. In his Oxford Amnesty
of a specific anti-colonial political strategy. lecture "On Writing Rights': Bhabha notes that in his discussion of the
These points are often linked to a general unease with Bhabha's highly recognition of equal rights, political theorist Charles Taylor implies,
theoretical, frequently psychoanalytic idiom, and to a frustration with perhaps unwittingly, that "all cultures deserving of respect are whole
his over-inflated beliefin the efficacy of the philosopher's role. Bhabha is societies, their 'wholeness' represented by a long, deep, historical con-
accused of overlooking historical contexts, of blurring different experi- tinuity': and even more, Taylor excludes what he calls "partial milieux"
ences of colonialism and, indeed, of failing to consider the particular (Bhabha 2003: 166). These "partial milieux" are hybridized cultures,
role of gender in the construction of a postcolonial identity. In each case, minority groups in the interstices between national identities, but
the implication is that there is no room in his thought for the specificity Taylor's implication is that these groups are somehow not worthy of
or the agency of the colonized: concrete policy and action are occluded the same rights as those assimilated into the national community. Even
by an excessively generalized, even at times universalized, discussion of more, Bhabha alludes to an amendment to article 27 of the International
the workings of discourse. These criticisms are in many ways justified, Covenant on Civil and Political Rights based on a similar exclusion. If,
and it is certainly true that Bhabha has little to say about the mechanics formerly, it had been held that unassimilated minorities presented a
of armed struggle. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that he never challenge to the nation, then the amendment stated that this was not
claimed that his own style of analysis should replace a more material- necessarily the case if the group had been in residence for a long period
ist postcolonialism, and one might conceive of the theory of colonial of time. Again, the implication is that interstitial groups are somehow
ambivalence as another level of critique but not as a holistic programme. outside the discourse of human rights: rights are only accorded to
His aim, like that of Derrida, is also to uncover the anxiety underpin- those who "over a long period of time" have enhanced the life of the
ning claims for knowledge and mastery, and in the process he implies nation. Bhabha goes on to read a poem by Adrienne Rich as a call
that he knows his own thought might contain blind spots, moments of for attention to subjects whose differences are constantly negotiated,
uncertainty and incompatible goals. His writing does not use form to rather than accorded any permanent essence and sovereignty. Subjects
explore the same dynamic between universalism, specificity and sin- do not necessarily belong to either one group or another and, indeed,
gularity as Derrida's does, but Bhabha's self-consciousness nevertheless the individual and the group, singularity and solidarity, are no longer
testifies to an understanding of the difficulties of any drive for secure pitted against one another. These new minorities are between state and
and stable knowledge of the other in his own work. non-state, and create affiliations across various milieux. Once again,
Moreover, in his engagement with thinkers such as Guha, Bhabha Fanon is another example of a thinker who proposes a notion of culture
does raise the question of native agency. His own argument is that agency .' that requires continual questioning, and this affirmation of movement
is created in a context of contingency, which means that although it is and negotiation continues to have resonance in a society still run by
grounded in a moment, it is not totalized by that process of ground~ discrimination and hierarchy.
ing. Insurgent agency responds strategically to its moment, but that Bhabha's ethical political recommendation here is for the "right
moment is also one of indeterminacy. Solidarity and collective identity to narrate": the right to affirm ones cultural reinvention and for that
can be invented in the name of emancipation, but this might be with reinvention to be recognized in the discourse of human rights. This
an awareness of the contingency of those constructs. Indeed, Bhabha "right to narrate' is also integral to Bhabha's vision of democracy:

122 understanding postcolonialism derrida and bhabha 123

[it] assumes that there is a commitment to creating "spaces" of of that evolution. This retention of the notion of humanity is, then,
cultural and regional diversity, for it is only by acknowledging surprising in a thinker as vehemently poststructuralist as Bhabha but,
such cultural resources as a "common good" that we can ensure despite its flaws and risks, the term does function in postcolonialism as
that our democracy is based on dialogue and conversation, dif- a means to think through both ethical and political emancipation. It is
ficult though it may be, between the uneven and unequal levels ethical in its call for respect for the potentially "infinite" other, and it is
of development and privilege that exist in complex societies. political in its demand for the accordance of rights, such as citizenship,
(Ibid.: 181) on the basis of that respect. It is with this return to the ''human': then,
that Bhabha proposes to bridge the gap left open in Derrida's work and,
It is clear that Bhabha's thinking here is very much based on the notions although the practical implementation of Bhabha's recommendations
of ambivalence and hybridization sketched in The Location of Culture, remains sketchy, the achievement of this curious return is precisely its
but in essays such as this he gives them a clearer political mission, even tentative articulation of a political ethics and an ethical politics.
if this is politics as guided by the ethical rather than by concrete policy.
Bhabha strives now to think ethically and politically at the same time:
his fundamental principles of respect for difference, and his belief in Key points
subjectivity as fractured and evolving, are now expressed in terms of the
politics of human rights and the achievement of social equality. It may Derrida criticizes the ethnocentrism of Western metaphysics
remain unclear quite how Bhabha proposes to ensure this equality, but and draws attention to the exclusion of the other in the work
his attention to the discourse of minority rights marks the beginning of thinkers such as Saussure and Levi-Strauss. He also explores
of a transition into the political. the violence of the imposition of the colonial language on Alge-
Finally, it is intriguing that, like Fanon, Sartre and Said, Bhabha returns rians in The Monolingualism of the Other. This text is challeng-
to the notion of the "human" in his attempt to unite politics and ethics. ing, moreover, because it raises questions about the very nature
Despite his earlier criticisms of Said, in his encomium to Said's work of postcolonial critique. Derrida shifts here between a universal
after his death what Bhabha pauses on is the latter's careful, thoughtful, denunciation of sovereignty in any language, a reflection on the
ethical humanism. Again, this is not the Eurocentric humanism rejected alienation of Algerian Jews, and a personal memoir.
by Foucault and Derrida, but a more modest call for attention to the Derrida draws explicitly on Levinas in his elucidation of an
multiplicity and diversity of human experience and an awareness of the ethics. Ethics is also separate from politics, according to Derrida,
tensions and conflicts that still govern that experience. Bhabha applauds although they need to be thought alongside one another.
what he calls Said's "slow humanist reflection': which takes into account Bhabha's postcolonial theory is deeply indebted to that ofDerrida,
the constant mediation between part and whole, between the individual as he deconstructs the apparent mastery of colonial discourse
and the group, and which "strengthens our resolve to make difficult and and draws attention to the "supplement" of the native's differ-
deliberate choices relating to knowledge and justice, 'how and how not?' ence. Bhabha shows how nationalism is always underpinned by
in the face of contingency; silence, and mortality" (Bhabha 2005: 376). cultural hybridity: by multiple fragments of cultural practices that
In addition, in his essays on rights and democracy Bhabha repeatedly elude any unified postcolonial category.
invokes the notion of the human to express a "strategic" call for the Bhabha turns to the question of minority rights in his later work,
recognition of all subjects. The term necessitates an understanding of and argues for the attribution of rights to those who live between
the negotiation between the singular and the collective, rather than cultures. Although frequently critical of Said, Bhabha finishes by
an insistence on any reductive and enclosed national framework. For upholding his humanism as a way of celebrating the dynamism
Bhabha, "the 'human' is identified not with a given essence, be it natural and mobility of cultural identity.
or supernatural, but with a practice, a task" (Bhabha 2000: 3). The tenn
enables him to think outside the borders of "whole societies" and offers .
a conception ofsubjectivity as evolving, and worthy of respect as a result

124 understanding postcolonialism derrida and bhabha 125

resonance, even though this resonance is bound up not with militant
action but with ways of conceiving local history that serve to promote
freedom and to account for multiplicity.
Khatibfs work is diverse and eclectic, but its resonance for post-
colonialism stems above all from the conception of a "plural Magh-
reb" in the wake of decolopization. Khatibi explicitly draws on Derrida
six by aligning deconstruction with decolonization, and by arguing that
any thought of the Maghreb must take into account its plurality and
internal differences rather than relying on an essentialized notion of a
Khatibi and Glissant: postcolonial ethics
traditional past.. Reflection on the Maghreb requires a "pensee autre" or
and the return to place "other thought": an alternative conceptual structure privileging also the
region's multiple languages and their mutual interpenetration. Glissant's
work calls for a similar opening out of Caribbean identity, although
Glissant goes further than Khatibi in stressing not just bilingualism
but a chaotic melting pot oflanguages and cultures relating the specific
place of the Caribbean with the rest of the world. The French Caribbean
The Moroccan thinker Abdelkebir Khatibi and the Martinican Edouard is the result of a particular combination of cultures, its origin is the
Glissant both combine the use of deconstructive philosophy with reflec- rupture and displacement of the slave trade, and its present is at once
tion on the history of the specific postcolonial places within which francophone and a complex, changing, Creole fusion of interlocking
they write. Highly indebted to the work of figures such as Derrida cultures and identities. Nevertheless, this specific history engenders a
and Foucault, Khatibi and Glissant explore the cultural plurality and new understanding of global culture as dynamic and relational, and the
relationality created by colonialism, but recommendations for a gen- political conditions of the French Caribbean in the end necessitate a
eralized ethical awareness of multiple differences are here tied to a broader ethical call for the embrace of global diversity. In Glissant, this
specific engagement with the effects of colonialism in the Maghreb or I shift constitutes an uneasy movement within the corpus, and the later
the French Caribbean. This attention to the conditions affecting spe- emphasis on globality appears to contradict earlier references to the spe-
cific places does not, however, entail a political and empirical study of cific Caribbean context. Glissant's writing lacks the self-consciousness of
an individual colonial regime, nor does it lead to a grounded form of Derrida's The Monolingualism of the Other on this matter, and has been
activism. Rather, Khatibi and Glissant show how the sorts of universal criticized for its obfuscation of the political. In his most recent work,
ethical opening proposed by Derrida and, by extension, Le"vinas have however, Glissant apparently relinquishes his goal of political activism,
particular resonance in their own regions of the world as a result of although he continues to use the example of the Caribbean as a figure
the colonial presence and the region's patchwork history. Khatibi and for globalized ethical, aesthetic and cultural renewal.
Glissant spend less time exploring the disjunction between the univer-
sal and the specific than Derrida, but nevertheless root their analyses in
the concrete locations of the Maghreb and the Caribbean even as they Abdelkebir Khatibi
derive from these analyses a broader ethics of relationality. If, then,
Derrida and Bhabha swing away from politics in their universalized Khatibi was born in EI-Jadida, Morocco in 1938, and he attended both
reflections on linguistic mastery; dlfferance and cultural ambivalence, Koranic and French schools, before studying sociology at the Sorbonne.
Khatibi and Glissant pursue the ethical opening associated with those He completed his thesis on the Moroccan novel in 1969, and went on
reflections but re-anchor ethics in the particular context of regions that to publish his autobiography La Memoire tatouee (Tatooed memory)
have been ruptured and fragmented by the colonial presence in distinct in 1971. Khatibi was a member of SovfJles, the bilingual literary review
ways. Deconstructive ethics is given a more grounded geographical founded in 1966, until it was banned in 1972, but has continued to

126 understanding postco[onialism khatibi and glissant 127

write and teach, and has become one of Morocco's leading intellectual and Cordoba. The narrative finishes with a theoretical reflection that
commentators. The scope of Khatibi's writing is notably wide-ranging, will go on to inform his thinking in Maghreb pluriel (Plural Maghreb)
since he has published both novels and theory, and has treated subjects (1983), and in which Khatibi explores the interpenetration of one lan-
as diverse as calligraphy and Islamic art, Orientalism and bilingual- guage with another within the expression of the bilingual subject. Ifthe
ism, as well as contemporary Moroccan politics. His distinction among persona's mother tongue retreats when he writes or speaks in French,
postcolonial thinkers is that he analyses not only the effects of colo- it nevertheless resurfaces in the form of fleeting traces and fragments
nialism on Magbrebian identity and culture, but also the precolonial that upset the rhythm of the French. This lingering murmur of one
past together with the traditions and complexity of modem Arabic and idiom within the tones of the other forms the basis for Khatibi's theory
Islamic culture. His reflections on Morocco are as a result not exclu- oflanguage as the dynamic and constantly mutating product of its rela-
sively bound up with the influence ofFrancophonie, and although one tions with other languages.
of his best-known works is his exploration of the "plural Maghreb" and In Maghreb pluriel, Khatibi uses this conception oflinguistic relation-
its bilingualism after decolonization, his perspective is not narrowly ality and plurality to propose an alternative understanding or "pensee
defined by the history of colonialism (Morocco was, after all, a French autre" of the Maghreb. Quoting Fanon's call for the definitive termina-
protectorate only for the short period between 1912 and 1954). If he tion of the European society in the Maghreb, Khatibi argues that a claim
is a provocative and sophisticated postcolonial thinker, then, he is also for difference in that region should not be a straightforward affirmation
an acclaimed authority on Islamic art and on the condition of modern but a mode of identification that continually calls itself into question.
Morocco both in the context of the aftermath of colonialism and in Thinking the Maghreb requires a "double critique": one that points out
respect of more recent internal developments. His philosophical precur- the limitations of the region's Western heritage and another that rejects
sors are Arabic and Islamic scholars such as Suwahardi and Ibn Arabi, the return to an archaic patrimony, since this is in tum too rigid, too
as well as French writers such as Victor Segalen and poststructuralists theolOgical and patriarchal Khatibi recommends a "plural thought",
such as Derrida and Foucault. a definition of the Maghreb that leaves behind the quest for roots, for
Despite his academic success in both France and Morocco, Khatibi's origins and an essential identity based on tradition, and that renews
autobiographical narrative La Memoire tatouee figures its subject as torn itselfby exploring the continuously developing and multiple differences
between cultures and exiled in the French language in which the text is that make up North Africa. This call for an alternative thought of the
nevertheless written. Like much of the work on bilingualism, however, Maghreb consists for Khatibi in the rejection of three unhelpful schools
this rupture is figured alternately as a source of self-loss and aliena- that have hindered its development. First, Khatibi rejects "traditional-
tion and as a trigger for creativity and invention. Khatibi's first name, ism': in this case the return to a rigid and immutable conception of
Abdelkebir, bears the mark of a violent severing, since it contains the theological doctrine or, in Khatibi's words, "metaphysics reduced to the-
echo of "Aid el Kebir': the festival of the commemoration of the sacri- ology" (1983: 24; my translation throughout). This hardened theology is
fice by Abraham of his son Isaac and the day of the author's birth. La , not at all a commemoration of the region's past but its denial or forget-
Memoire tatouee opens with the revelation of this originary destruc- ting. Secondly, Khatibi laments the failures ofSalafism, a broadly Sunni
tion, as if the narrative persona carries the wound of the violation of school of thought upholding the early days ofIslam as exemplary, and
Morocco by the French presence. Next, Khatibi's autobiographical per he qualifies this movement as "metaphysics that has become a doctrine':
sona reflects on the disjunction caused by his education in a secular Khatibi at the same time condemns the use of that doctrine in the for-
French school, where colonial and republican values are grafted on to, mation of political objectives and social pedagogy: Salafism is unable to
but do not weld with, his Islamic upbringing. The French language is cope with the modern Maghreb, since it too insists on a strict division
also a "tattoo" or graft whose shapes cover without obliterating both the between itself and the other (ibid.: 25). Thirdly, Khatibi reveals the defi-
Arabic learned at the Koranic school and the Berber language spoken ciencies of rationalism, "metaphysics that has become technicaf' (ibid.).
at home. Expressions of disorientation and perplexity are nevertheless Khatibi's point here is to demonstrate the limitations of the work of the
increasingly juxtaposed with celebrations of intercultural exchange, as ideolOgical thinker, Abdallah Laroui, whose Ideologie arabe contempo-
the narrator travels jubilantly from Paris to Berlin, London, Stockholm raine (Contemporary Arab ideology) insists on a separation between the

128 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 129

three fields despite their interpenetration in Maghrebian thought, and present and an Arab past, between the Koran and both modem and
whose historicism or rationalism results in too neat and too schematic a classical poetry, and between technology, decolonization and multiple
continuity in the history of that troubled region. The alternative "pensee examples of Arab culture. In so dOing, however, he creates a unified
autre" of the Maghreb would, conversely, take into account disorder artifice underpinned, according to Khatibi, by Western metaphysics.
and dissymmetry, and would "broaden our freedom of thought" (ibid.: This means that Berque identifies a determinate being that he calls the
33). This call for freedom means that thought, or philosophy, is itself Orient; he gives it an ontology. Orientalism of this sort, propagated
brought into the realm of social and political struggle. also by Louis Massignon, confers on the Orient specificities that result
Khatibi conceives this new thought of the Maghreb with reference in an affirmed essentialism. Furthermore, Orientalism is for Khatibi
to the work of Derrida and Foucault. For Khatibi, "decolonization" accompanied by positivism, and also by a form of humanism, which
necessarily entails the "deconstruction" oflogocentrism and ethnocen- in Berque is derived from Enlightenment thinking. In addition to this
trism, the undermining of the Western belief in self-presence and self- reliance on metaphysics, however, Berque goes on to draw on sociology;
sufficiency. Khatibi's deconstruction calls for the philosopher to stand referring to particular customs and practices, but his descriptions serve
outside his assumed frameworks, to do away with binary oppositions only to reify and caricature the Arab people. The son of a colonial offi-
(such as that between reason and unreason) and to subvert the very cial in Algeria, Berque was born there and later lived in Morocco, but
logic within which he writes. This mode of thinking is at the heart of his mistake was to use that experience in Morocco to try to speak for
decolonization, since in Khatibi's words, "to decolonize would be the the whole of the Arab world.. He finishes by fixing the identity of the
other name for this other thought, and decolonization: the silent ending Arab people, whereas for Khatibi "the other cannot be reduced and
of Western metaphysics" (ibid.: 51). Furthermore, Khatibi points out the brought back to an essence, be it one of paradise, warm and fragrant"
difficulties associated with using Marxism to theorize decolonization, (1983: 133). Berque assumes an astonishingly neat continuity between
since Marx's thought still rests on the notion that the colonized must classical and modem Arabs, and encapsulates a diversity of traditions
adopt a mode of thinking that is Western in origin. Khatibi concedes into the framework of a homogeneous identity. Orientalism for Khatibi
that Marx was inspirational in helping countries of the Third World to should be bilingual, in that it should, as Berque also dreams, accomplish
conceive a revolution, but denounces his drive to unify the world by an exchange between cultures, but Khatibi reminds us that there will
means of his global system. Marx's thought is, in spite of itself, another nevertheless always remain the trace of the untranslatable. The error
form of Hegelian absolute knowledge. Later on in the text, Khatibi of Berque was to translate the untranslatable into a stilted rhetoric that
also notes the insufficiency of Marx's concept of the Asiatic mode of immobilized and homogenized the other's difference, rather than retain-
production, and argues that in the precolonial Maghreb, for example, ing a Levinasian sense of the openness and potential inaccessibility of
politico-military violence was as significant as economic violence. It that difference.
is the self-critical impulse of Derrida and Foucault, then, that Khatibi Khatibi constantly champions through his work an understanding
champions as a liberatory form ofphilosophy, and not the revolutionary' of bilingualism as an open-ended exchange and a movement between
militancy of Marx. Khatibi also adds to the work of the former thinkers languages in which linger, nevertheless, merely hints of the untrans-
a call for attention to bilingualism as a means of conceptualizing a philo- latable. In the essay "Bilingualism and Literature': printed in Maghreb
sophicallanguage estranged from itself. Arab knowledge, for example, pluriel, he explores the example of the novel Talismano, by Tunisian
is constantly influenced and interrupted by Western knowledge, but writer Abdelwahab Meddeb, and reads into its French expression both
this influence passes through a process of translation. In this way it intercultural exchange and the inevitable silencing of the original. The
dramatizes exchange between languages, Khatibi's "pensee en langues" very title page of the novel inaugurates this study of hidden traces. The
or thought that takes place in more than one language at once. initial phoneme ' 1>:.' of the author's first name is already a mistranslation
Maghreb pluriel also contains a chapter on Orientalism, which of a sound that only exists in Arabic, and which, in a form of archaic
consists in a somewhat devastating reading of the renowned French calligraphy, figures also the "eye': The result of this mistranslation is
thinker and sociolOgist Jacques Berque's work on the Islamic world. that the work is introduced by this effect of effacement: it ''opens with
Khatibi notes that Berque attempts to establish links between an Arab ' an absent eye, with blindness, with the invisible and the unreadable"

130 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 131

(Khatibi 1983: 182). Writing in French, for the Arab author, in this way examined this can also become an invigorating and enriching encounter
at the same time evacuates the mother tongue. Nevertheless, Khatibi with alterity.
goes on to argue that Meddeb's text constantly uses the preposition"i/' Khatibi's tentative move towards a celebration of bilingual relation-
("to" or "at"), as if the accent on the "a' could transliterate the original ality is at the same time an aesthetic and an ethical call. In an essay on
Arabic sound excluded from the title page, and to make up for this Derrida and borders, for example, Khatibi concludes by enquiring after
absence. The work contains the trace of the author's name, but this trace the effects of an awareness of foreignness within languages: "in what
constantly undergoes a process of transformation: "it falls under the way is this impropriety, this hybridization and this troubling of identity
sway of a double genealogy, a double signature, which are as much the favourable to idiomatic and stylistic inventions?" (Khatibi 1994: 449;
literary effects of a lost gift, of a giving that is split in its origin" (ibid.: my translation). An awareness of otherness in language is also a way
186). In this process of translation, Khatibi suggests that the two lan- to seek new forms of writing, new styles and new sources of creativity.
guages signal to each other but at the same time exclude one another, Khatibi's celebration of bilingual writing can also be seen as Levinasian,
and this simultaneous interaction and withdrawal defines the narra- in that it calls for attention to the intractable and the untranslatable, and
tive that "speaks in languages': There is a bilingualism within Meddeb's makes of that attention an ethical condition of the use of any language.
French, which operates both a movement of transformation and a split- All language, for Khatibi, contains traces of other languages, and, like
ting or division. The narrative forms an example of a language existing Levinas's discourse, it is a site for encounter across differences, although
in relation to other languages, which by turns interrupt its rhythms and its proper understanding does not allow the reduction of difference to
lie dormant beneath its surface. the same. Khatibi's "pensee en langues" and Levinas's discourse are both
This bilingual writing is a source of both alienation and enjoyment. forums for an ethical encounter with an other that resists essentialism,
Khatibi locates in Meddeb's text a certain hermeticism, in that the lan- knowledge and metaphysics. In this way, Khatibi adds to Levinasian
guage becomes a sort of formal edifice that hides the memories that the ethics a further dimension in his exploration of bilingualism, and gives
author nevertheless seeks to translate. Memories and traces of the mater- that ethics particular resonance in the context of intercultural com-
nallanguage, conceived also in psychoanalytic terms as the language of munication between France and Morocco. There is nevertheless in this
fusion with the mother, are traumatically repressed and occluded even exploration of French and Arabic bilingualism in the aftermath of colo-
as they scatter themselves beneath the artifice of the French. These traces nialism a universal conception of relationality and ethical exchange
figure the Lacanian "fragmented body" of the narrator, the disintegra- within and between all languages.
tion of an irrevocably lost totality. In Khatibi's own novel of bilingual- Moving away from engagement with the context of colonialism and
ism, Love in Two Languages (1990), however, this alienation and loss postcolonialism in the Maghreb, Khatibi also writes about calligraphy
are constantly juxtaposed with jubilation and creativity. Love across and Islamic art. His analyses have resonance here, however, because
languages results in a confrontation with the incommunicable, but it is again they provide a means of imagining the open-ended process
also a trigger for desire and a quest for fusion. Bilingualism is a form of signification in language in a way that subverts the colonial urge
of separation, but the form also engenders a plural, relational form of to mastery and knowledge. In the commentary on Meddeb, Khatibi
writing for Khatibi, in which languages jostle against one another and notes that Arabic calligraphy, in its untranslatability, is the lost source
provocatively permeate one another with fragments of alterity. The language of the text. Yet in La Blessure du nom propre (The wound of
bilingual text contains silence, and yet, by the end of the text, it gives the proper name) (1974), Khatibi explores the richness of calligraphic
rise to a "folie de la langue': the chaotic accumulation of phonemes and art, as the calligraphic letters hover between emptiness and plenitude.
signi:fi.ers in the creation of a new, plural mode of expression. This dual Calligraphy confers dynamism on the sign, since calligraphic letters
attitude equally characterizes Khatibi's study of the stranger in French fluctuate between phonetics, semantics and geometric design. The cal-
writing (Figures de letranger dans la litterature fran~aise; 1987), a text ligraphic sign functions musically, pictorially and semantically, and its
in which analyses of writers such as Segalen, Jean Genet and Roland potential suggestiveness is heightened and multiplied by the operation
Barthes are capped with a champiOning of 'literary internationality': of these different levels of sense. Equally, Khatibi's LArt calligraphique
The figure of the stranger implies untranslatability, but in the works arabe (Arabic calligraphic art) explores the origins of Arabic calligraphy

132 understanding postcoionialism khatibi and glissant 133

in the Koran and its link with the belief that the language of the Koran in France, as well as in Morocco. Barthes famously produced a brief
is sacred or "uncreated': The writing of the Koran is the direct word of eulogy, "Ce que je dois a Khatibi" ("What I owe Khatibi"), to be used
God, passed down to Mohammed and transcribed, and must be treas- as the preface for La Memoire tatouee, in which he celebrates Khatibi's
ured not only for its meaning but also for its form. In both works, more- invention of a "heterologicallanguage" and suggests that French thought
over, calligraphy is conceived of as a way of writing that opens up the should learn from this decentring of the Western subject. It has been
space between the referent and the realization of the work of art in its objected, however, that Barthes's own response to Khatibi is Oriental-
appeal to multiple forms of sense. This exploration of calligraphy serves ist, in that it omits to consider the specific implications of colonialism
to develop Khatibi's portrayal of the complexity of Arab culture and the in Morocco in favour of a somewhat vague and formless celebration of
perhaps often forgotten belief in polysemy. Eastern culture. More recently, Derrida dedicated The Monolingualism
A final aspect ofKhatibi's writing worth mentioning here is his study of the Other to both Khatibi and Glissant, although Derrida's comment
Le Corps oriental (The Oriental body) (2002), which, similarly, uncov- that he himself is more "franco-Maghrebin" than Khatibi because he
ers the plurality of meanings associated with the body in Arab and experiences alienation or disjunction within the French language, rather
Islamic-culture. Khatibi notes in his commentary on this stunning col- than as a result of the confrontation between French and Arabic, can
lection of paintings and photographs that the Orientalist gaze of the seem a little tendentious. Nevertheless, the support of figures such as
European nineteenth-century painter seeks to unveil and denude the Barthes and Derrida is just one sign ofKhatibi's growing importance in
Oriental body, but also to tie it to its past. Indeed, Khatibi notes that for francophone thought, and his engagement with Tzvetan Todorov and
Delacroix, 'l\ntiquity is no longer in Rome but in the East': and depic- Jacques Hassoun, among others, in his collection of essays on bilin-
tions of Oriental bodies during this period return repeatedly to stock gualism further testifies to his inSightful participation in francophone
figures of the odalisque, the harem, the slaves at Constantinople and debate. As I have suggested, however, Khatibi's thought is provocative
various biblical memories (2002: 175; my translation). The section on because it succeeds in combining a highly focused study of Morocco,
Orientalism is fairly brief, however, since Khatibi's principal endeavour and ofIslamic and Arabic culture, with a critique of colonial and ethno-
is to explore how the body is used, interpreted, decorated and regulated centric thought. Knowledge of the supple traditions ignored by the West
in diverse ways through the history of Arab and Islamic culture. Indeed, is also coupled with an ethical call for attention to the presence of alterity
there are not one but three words for the body in Arabic: jism is the con- in any language, and this is both a form of Levinasian intractability and
cept of the body, badane designates the bodily constitution and jassad the trace of another culture or linguistic idiom. This broader ethical call
signifies sensuality and the flesh. Furthermore, Khatibi explores the art never becomes universalized in such a way as to occlude the specific
of reading the body by means of the "sensorium" or the flesh: geometric experiences of Moroccan bilingual subjects but lingers rather as a force
or physiological forms, gestures and whispers have suggestive connota- that contests the pernicious determinism of colonial discourse. Finally,
tions that need to be translated. The body is, moreover, central to Islamic this ethics offers a particular vision of poetic enrichment and literary
faith. Mohammed is respected and remembered also for his corporeal creativity that transcends borders and categories, and that promises a
presence, and the prophet's body and acceptance of his mortality serve mode of thinking freed from the constraints of both colonialism and
as a model for Muslims to follow in understanding their own physical metaphysics.
strengths and weaknesses. The body is also a focus for endless rituals
and rites: the posture of the body during prayer bears meaning, cleanli-
ness is a spiritual value and circumcision is a further way of marking the Edouard Glissant and Caribbean Discourse
body with the trace of society and culture. Again, Khatibi has moved
far beyond postcolonialism in this work, but his intricate study is rele- While Khatibi bases his vision of postcolonial ethics on bilingualism
vant here for its insistence on plurality and polysemy in a culture often and plurality in Moroccan culture, Glissant conceives Caribbean identity
reduced and misunderstood by the 'Vest, by the former colonizer. and the poetics of "creolization" as the catalyst for what can almost be
While Khatibi has not yet received the attention he deserves in anglo- read as a global cultural revolution. Writing about his native Martinique,
phone postcolonial circles, his work is becoming increasingly celebrated which remains a French colony having been accorded the status of a

134 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 135

"departement doutre mer" in 1946, Glissant tracks the oppression and the colonial project, in which the author explicitly compares the dehu-
silencing of the Martinican colonized subaltern, but proceeds as a result manization engendered by colonialism to the horrors of Nazism. Most
to propose not only the embrace of bilingualism but the celebration of famously, Cesaire now asserts that colonization is "thingification": colo-
a vast, open-ended network of cultural interactions operating across nialism deprives the colonized of their humanity, dispossesses them of
the globe and resisting the determinist forms of thinking propagated their land and resources, and saps the spirit and energy of the societies
by colonial regimes. Like Khatibi, Glissant too responds to the political under its grasp. Another revolutionary inspiration for Glissantwas C. L.
injustices of colonialism by advocating an alternative ethical and cultural R. James's The Black Jacobins (1938), which charts the revolt of the slaves
model of relationality; although the focus on place in Glissant crucially of San Domingo, inaugurated by Toussaint Louverture in 1791, followed
involves the denunciation specifically of the rupture brought about by by the creation of an independent Haiti in 1804. First published in 1938,
the slave trade in the Caribbean. Rather than remaining aware at once James's work narrates an allegory ofliberation and emancipation and has
of the distinction and the complicity between politics and ethics, how- served as an inspiration for many subsequent anti -colonial thinkers in
ever, Glissant clearly moves through his career from an emphasis on the the Caribbean. Both James and Cesaire are major influences in Glissant's
former to an embrace ofthe latter, and ofits expression through aesthetic rejection ofthe dehumanizing force ofcolonialism and in his exploration
production. Indeed, the political motivations of his early novels are still of the expansiveness of Caribbean identity and culture.
perceptible in Caribbean Discourse (1989), but by the time of Traite du Glissant's early novels tend to be seen as the most militant of his
tout-monde (1997d) and La Cohee du Lamentin (2005), politics is all but works in their search to depict some form of subaltern agency. It is in
dismissed for its conventional reliance on a territorialism and a deter- Caribbean Discourse, however, that Glissant articulates his critique of
minism that are anathema to Glissant's cultural ethics. While Khatibi colonialism in quasi-philosophical form, and it is also in this expansive
and, above all, Derrida theorize and maintain the tension between ethics tome that he starts to envisage the link between the political denun-
and politics in postcolonial criticism, Glissant slips perhaps rather more ciation of slavery and exploitation on the one hand, and an emergent
glibly from one to the other, giving rise to a certain unease among his "poetics of Relation" on the other. The full French text of Le Discours
readers concerning the limited efficacy or practicality of the later work antillais (Caribbean Discourse) is a weighty; even cumbersome, volume,
and its contradictions with the earlier militancy. Where Glissant can be structured by multiple sections, subsections and subdivisions as if in a
seen to be unrivalled, however, is in the dynamism and expansiveness of parody of French structuralist criticism and its claim to scientism. Its
his poetics and in his conception of the value of that poetics independ- underlying political foundations are perhaps clearest, however, in the
ently of the political requirements of the (post)colony. section on the relation between "History" and "histories': and in which
Glissant's thought is quiteclearlya development and extension of that official History with a capital H is denounced as a phantasm of the
of the poet and politician Cesaire, whose Notebook of a Return to My West that specifically occludes plural local histories. Moreover, Glissant
Native Land (1995), an extraordinary and powerful landmark in post- argues that "the French Caribbean is the site of a history characterized
colonial literature, constitutes an incendiary reclaiming of Antillean ter- by ruptures and that began with a brutal dislocation, the slave trade"
ritory from the colonizer's warped vision. The "return" performed by (1989: 61). Caribbean history is brutally severed from its origins as a
Cesaire's poem at once affirms the cultural values of negritude and the result of the transportation of slaves from Africa, and this discontinu-
traditions of a black African heritage, and eschews French exoticism to ity has prevented the people from forming a national solidarity; as the
confront the sickness and disease of Martinique at the hands of French African nations did, against the colonial power. Official History relies on
politicians and slave-owners. The work ends with an image of the slaves a hierarchy that privileges Europe at the expense of Africans or Ameri-
rising up and taking control of the slave ship in a compelling gesture of cans, but it is also structured by a linearity that fails to account for the
defiance (Cesaire 1995: 131). Far from redefining Martinique by means disjunctions and losses of Caribbean "non-history': If the historian can
of a new set of categorizations, however, Cesaire's return is crucially at create a continuity out of the History of Martinique, setting out a schema
the same time an opening out: it is an exposition of the dynamism ~d starting with the slave trade, passing through the plantations system
mobility of black Caribbean culture and experience. Similarly, Cesaire's and the appearance of the elite, to assimilation and more recently to
Discourse on Colonialism (2000) is another virulent denunciation of what Glissant terms "oblivion': then even this continuity is structured

136 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 137

by changes brought about by the French: they are a function of someone to achieve an illusory individual quality" (1989: 7) and he sets out to
else's history. re-imagine that collective identity in terms that resist the sweeping uni-
The non-history of Martinique turns out to be the basis for Glis- versalization of European thought. In sketching this new concept of
sant's economic analysis earlier in the book. Colonialism and slavery Antillanite, however, Glissant at the same time rejects Cesaire's use of the
bring about the "dispossession" not only of local history but also of notion of a "retour" or "reversion", since he identifies within that term
the land and resources, but Glissant also argues that the colonizer in a reliance on a centred, determinist identity complicit once again with
Martinique and Guadeloupe lacks control of the market, and runs an colonial thinking. Cesaire's return no doubt refused this rigid identitari-
economy of bartering: "he exploits on a day to day basis" (ibid.: 38). anism in its celebration of the expansiveness of black identity and in its
This means that the Martinican economy is tightly integrated into the exploration of the active relation between the archipelago and the rest
French economy, making it difficult for the colonized to rebel. Glis- of the world, topographically, politically and culturally, but Glissant's
sant equally asserts that this structure engenders a lack of collective argument is nevertheless that the concept of return assumes the stability
responsibility, and the consequences of this include in turn an absence of the returning self Indeed, "Reversion is the obsession with a single
of global investment, no accumulation of capital and a tendency towards origin: one must not alter the absolute state of being" (ibid.: 16). Con-
under-productivity. This exposition of the lack of local agency mir- versely, then, Glissant recommends the invention ofAntillanite through
rors at the same time the portrait of lethargy, passivity and stagnation "detour" or "diversion": the recourse of the culture that is not directly
found in Cesaire's Notebook of a Return to My Native Land. The forms pitted against an enemy but that needs to conceive its resistance sur-
of resistance that have occurred in Martinique are also, according to reptitiously. The detour cannot rely on the construction of a coherent ,_
Glissant, of the sort that cannot lead to the national overthrow of the alternative identity, but takes the form rather of "an interweaving of
colonial regime. The "economy of survival" means that the worker is negative forces that go unchallenged" (ibid.: 19). It is also a strategy or
able to carve out a terrain that assures the upkeep of the family, but moment that should lead to its own "depassemenf' or development; its
this does not lead to any form of collective progress. A more violent success determines that it ultimately transcends its own confines.
mode of resistance is that of the maroons - escaped slaves who started Glissant's prime example of this strategy of detour is the use of the
their own plantations on new plots ofland - but again, the isolation of Creole language. In using Creole, the slave or worker embraces the
the maroons meant that it was difficult for their rebellion to take on a simplified language imposed on him by the master, and he twists and
collective force and meaning. Intellectual maroons, a class made up of appropriates it so that it symbolizes his difference and his resistance. In
"mulattos" and sons of agricultural workers who benefited at least from Glissant's terms, "you wish to reduce me to childish babble, I will make
primary education, were then compromised by their reliance on that this babble systematic, we shall see if you can make sense of it" (ibid.:
French education; indeed, "they quickly become the vehicle of official 20). Creole becomes a ruse used by the slave to alienate the slave-owner
thought" (Glissant 1997e: 119; my translation). What the Martinicans and to reclaim the idiom as his own. While for later thinkers and writers
lack, then, is a distinct and active nationalist project that would assure such as Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant "creolite'" names a
the repossession of their territory. culture to be affirmed and maintained, however, Glissant's conception
Glissant proposes as a new form of contestation the notion of of the use of Creole as a strategy of detour requires that it in turn be sur-
"Antillanite: an alternative vision of Caribbean collective identity that passed, that it lead somewhere new. Fanon's revolutionary fervour and
will define history and culture in terms that are not structured by West- Cesaire's poetic language brought concrete change: they used a strategy
ern myths and ideology. This is admittedly unlikely in the end to provide of detour in order to envisage the world differently and, indeed, accord-
the basis for a national revolution, but Glissant uses it as a starting-point ing to Glissant they also understood that the detour must on some level
for the invention of an innovative form of historical thinking designed be mingled with another return - not to an origin, but "to the point
to rescue local people from consignment to "non-history" and to fight of entanglement" (ibid.: 26). Clinging on to Creole would cause Mar-
the stagnation and passivity diagnosed also by Cesaire. Right up until tinican culture to stagnate, and Glissant fears that this "pidgi.'l" is not
departmentalization in 1946, Glissant argues that "French Caribbean a language in which Martinicans can express their creativity. Glissant
people are thus encouraged to deny themselves as a collectivity, in order has been criticized for failing to see the rich potentiality of the Creole

138 understanding postcoionialism khatibi and glissant 139

culture and language, but it is nevertheless the argument of Caribbean poetics recommends as a result the insertion of the oral into the writ-
Discourse that it is not creolite but the exploration of a broader point of ten form, and the inscription of the dynamism of the spoken language
entanglement that will serve as a focus for Antillanite. This also means into the literary. Once again, Glissanfs celebration of oral culture does
that Glissant recommends the continuous and unpredictable process of not lead to the privileging of creolite or indeed folklore here, however,
creolization, through the embrace of interaction and exchange, rather and if Glissant conceives a role for folk culture this will be as a strategic
than the establishment of a specifically Creole identity. affirmation leading to its own necessary transcendence. The poetics of
This search for a "point of entanglement at the heart of Antillanite Relation upholds the dynamic and changing interaction of the oral and
leads next to the elaboration of a "poetics of Relation": an exploration the written, and not just the retention and affirmation of an existing
of Caribbean identity that celebrates its juxtaposition and intermingling tradition of story-telling.
of diverse cultural influences and practices. This is not just "metissagl: Furthermore, the Diverse is expressed not only in the use of the
the simple mixture of black and white, but a more complex interaction Creole language or in oral culture, but through multilingualiSm. If
or creolization that produces the unpredictable and the unexpected. Khatibls conception of bilingualism served to foreground linguistic
This dynamic relationality recalls the transculturation celebrated by relationality and dynamism, Glissant goes even further than Khatibi
the Cuban thinker Fernando Ortiz, which, rather than describing and exalts the interpenetration of any given language with multiple
the adoption of a new culture implied by "acculturation: stresses "the changing idioms. Glissant rewrites Saussure's distinction between "lan-
highly varied phenomena that have come about in Cuba as a result of guage': meaning the language system, and "speech': denoting particular
the extremely complex transmutations of culture that have taken place instances of the usage of the language, in order to criticize the assumed
here" (Ortiz 1995: 97). Similarly, Glissanfs poetics of Relation promotes hermeticism of the former and to emphasize the multifarious creativity
"Diversity" over "Sameness" , and this conception of Diversity brings no performed by the latter. Noting that multilingualism through history
i new fusion, but "means the human spirit's striving for a cross-cultllTal has frequently fallen back on a belief in the separation and hierarchy
relationship, without universalist transcendence" (Glissant 1989: 98). between languages, Glissant suggests instead that the very concept of
While Sameness privileges Being, Diversity inaugurates relationality, language or "langue" can be opened out by examination of the creative
and whereas Sameness fuels the European expansionist project, Diver- inventions of particular languages or "langages': For Glissant, "language
sity emerges in the resistance of the people. In terms reminiscent of [la langue] creates the relation, particular instances oflanguage [Ie lan-
Levinas's work, Glissant offers an ethical critique here of the totali- gage] creates difference, both of which are equally precious" (Glissant
tarianism underpinning European universalism and argues that even 1997e: 552). It is through the inflexion of his written French with the
the French discourse of human rights is born from this "saturation of rhythms and idioms of his spoken Creole, for example, that Glissant
Sameness" and blocks the requirements of Diversity. It is in literature or creates his own symbiotic language, and it is with these very sorts of
! poetics that Glissant suggests that the ethics of Diversity survives and, singular but multivalent langages that the universalism and standardi-
as we shall see, it is this investment in literariness and aesthetics that zation associated with French, and instituted through colonialism, can
will come to dominate Glissanfs later thinking. be undermined.
Glissanfs beliefin the power ofliterature nevertheless does not entail Caribbean Discourse suggests that this contestatory dynamism can be
a privileging of the written word. Indeed, the relational culture he seeks created through the mixing of French and Creole, or of the oral and the
to reinvigorate is one that celebrates oral story-telling, and the oral form written. The later sections of the French text additionally introduce the
for Glissant performs the mutability and dynamism encapsulated by the notion of "verbal delirium" as a means of describing "deviant manifesta-
Diverse. Glissant goes so far as to attest that "the written is the universal- tions .,. which limit themselves to the practice of particular languages
izing influence of Sameness, whereas the oral would be the organized (written or spoken)" (ibid.: 625), although these by their very nature
manifestation of Diversity" (ibid.: 100). Printed forms, although poten- should not be taken as exemplary. Nevertheless, Glissant schematizes
tially protean in meaning, are nevertheless :fixed on the page, whereas some of the forms of this "verbal delirium" with a certain self-conscious
the oral form allows the speaker to adapt or revise what he narrates; irony, noting for example the use of repetition, formulae, evidence,
orality leaves room for digression, omission and recreation. Glissantiail. structures that proceed by proliferation rather than sequence, and the

140 understanding postcoionialism khatibi and glissant 141

vision of the self as determined by the transcendent vision of the other.
Relation expands on the philosophical discussion of the slave trade as
the inauguration of a non-history, this time through an intensely poetic
For the most part, however, this deviance is a dysfunction that may
subvert the norms of the French language, but that will eventually be evocation of the abyss across which the slave ships sailed on their jour-
neyto the Caribbean. The description of this originary exile nevertheless
surpassed by a more expansive and creative relationality. Glissant next
here gives rise to a new concept, that of"errance" or "errantry': suggest-
explores the theatre as a means for the seizing of consciousness, which
may pass through a phase of folklore, but whose dynamism should also ing not so much loss but wandering and discovery. The initial image of
the transportation of the slaves in this way leads not to alienation but to
seek t? reach beyond folklore. Crucially, however, these strategies are
conceIved as forms of contestation that might lead to national liberation the creation and narration of "shared knowledge':
Furthermore, the poetics of that relationality is conceived using a
and, ~esp~t~ its privileging of poetics, the text retains something of a
MarxIst VISIon of repossession. At the end of the study Glissant returns new set of images, derived from Deleuze and Felix Guattarfs A Thou-
to the "poetics of Relation" as the form that will explore both the com- sand Plateaus (1988), opposing the root structure with that of the rhi-
zome and building in tum on Derrida's rejection of origins as far back
plexrealityofMartinican culture and the diversity and dynamism ofall
cultures of the world, but the final pages nevertheless defiantly call for as OfGrammatology. Glissant moves away from a vocabulary of political
strategy and ruse in favour of a wholehearted embrace of "rhizomatic
the independence of Martinique via this revolution in cultural mental-
thinking": a model of cultural identity and exchange based on plural
ity. Creolization, conceived alongSide Glissant's more acerbic sections
connections rather than on the positing of a single, monologic origin.
on political and economic inequality, is championed here as a strategic
Paraphrasing Deleuze and Guattari, Glissant denounces root structures
tool leading to national liberation.
as reductive, even totalitarian, while celebrating the entangled web of
stems and roots that constitute the rhizome structure:
Glissant's poetics
the root is unique, a stock taking all upon itself and killing
all around it. In opposition to this they propose the rhizome,
In addition to Caribbean Discourse and the novels, Glissant produced
an enmeshed root system, a network spreading either in the
a series of essays or reflections, now published by GallinIard as a series
ground or in the air, with no predatory rootstock taking over
entitled Poetique and numbered sequentially. There is a large degree of
permanently. (Glissant 1997c: 11)
r~petition and rewriting across the series and, indeed, The Poetics ofRela-
tlOn (1997c) is also explicitly "a reconstituted echo or spiral retelling" of
If the root structure describes an identity firmly planted in the soil,
~aribbe~n. Discourse (Glissant 1997b: 16), as well as of EIntention poe-
tlque (ongmallypublished in 1969 but repackaged as Poitique II; 1997b). related to an identifiable and inlmutable origin, the rhizome, a term
originally used to name those types of plants whose roots form a com-
This spiral structure is evidently itself conceived as an alternative to D.1.e
linearity of official or European history; indeed, the individual volumes plex network, evokes a plural and interactive mode of individuation or
are themselves a subversively hybrid mixture of literary, philosophical self~creation. It also inaugurates a conception of being not as finished
product, but as process or, indeed, as singular "trace': Any specific iden-
and intermittently political language, structured not by linear argu-
ment but by overlapping fragments. The later texts of the Poetique series tity is necessarily now tempered and opened out by its connections with
are also markedly different from Caribbean Discourse, however, both other parts of the rhizome structure. Despite the biolOgical origins of
the concept of the rhizome, however, Glissant's use of it is above all as
in their privileging of aesthetics in place of politics and in their own
highly literary form. The Poetics ofRelation tells us that Relation not only a creative metaphor, as a poetic descriptor of Caribbean relationality
or "nomadic thought". The rhizome becomes a figure of resistance to
"binds" and "relays': but it also "recounts': suggesting it comes about
colonial thinking and its privileging of monolingualism, territoriality
through the creation and transfer of narratives. The creolization cham-
pioned in Caribbean Discourse is now the product of an open-ended and cultural determinism.
It is perhaps not surprising, after this poetic opening, that Glissant's
form of story-telling, where sections of narrative are relayed" from one
narrator to the next. It is also striking that the opening of The Poetics of The Poetics of Relation proceeds by exploring literary examples of

khatibi and glissant 143

142 understanding postcolonialism
rltizomatic thought Glissant notes that the very foundational texts of and thinker Alejo Carpentier, who evokes the richness of "marvellous
community, the iliad, the Odyssey, the chansons de geste and African realism" and the Baroque in Latin America. For Carpentier, Baroque
epics, are frequently texts of exile or even erranCE. These are works in is indeed "art in motion, pulsating art, an art that moves outward and
which the possession of territory is questioned, and in which collec- away from the center, that somehow breaks through its own borders"
tive consciousness is created through the open-ended exploration of (Carpentier 1995: 93). This is also a form of art that arises specifically
travel and migration rather than through the establishment of borders. from the rapid meeting of cultures, such as in Latin America as a result
In addition, Glissant cites the poetry of Baudelaire, and argues that, in of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism. Postcolonial metissage, for Car-
exploring the poet's inner consciousness, Baudelaire reveals that inner pentier, leads to dynamiC forms of artistic transformation.
self as vast and expansive. The poetic persona discovers, according to Moreover, Baroque art, and the poetics of Relation more generally,
Glissant, that "the alleged stability of knowledge led nowhere" (ibid.: refuses to propose unequivocal and monologic forms of meaning, but
24). If Baudelaire's poetry remains within the confines of the French affirms the value of opacity. Glissant recommends forms of art that do
language, however, Rimbaud's famous pronouncement that "I is an not offer back to the West its own transparent mirror image, but that
other" becomes for Glissant the archetypal statement of the poetics give voice to the unfamiliar and the unknown. An adherence to modes
of Relation. Rimbaud seeks not merely to deepen his knowledge of of writing that remain anchored within the standardized form of French,
himself, but to transform that self, to transcend and disrupt tradition and that do not explore the contact between French and other languages,
and heritage. Segalen's work is then cited as a further example of an aes- will prevent the culture from developing and enhancing in new and
thetic that embraces the Diverse and, like Khatibi, Glissant recognizes enriching ways. As a result, Glissant goes on to argue that the promotion
the importance of Segalen's conception of a moral or ethical relation ofJrancophonie as a means of protecting the language and imposing a
with the other. Conversely, Glissant cites Saint-Jean Perse's work since standard form of French on the rest of the world repeats the colonial
it operates the reverse movement of returning from the periphery (from gesture of silencing other voices. Francophonie for Glissant must on the
his native land Guadeloupe) to the centre. Most importantly; the poetics contrary be concerned with the evolution of the language and its abil-
of Relation can be located across the history of both French and world ity to convey the idioms of diverse cultures and peoples. Furthermore,
literature, and at the same time, takes different forms when sketched French has since the eighteenth century been associated with myths of
by different poets. The poetics of Relation is precisely not a specific clarity and logic; it has been conceived as a potentially universal tool
mode of writing that can be pinned down and determined, but names for expression able to lend rationality to all speakers. In opposition to
rather more broadly a straining against boundaries, against territorial- this, Glissant recommends not so much the right of the colonized to
ism, and against monadic forms of identity. Indeed Perse, one of the speak their own language, but rather a principle of communication and
writers on whom Glissant dwells at most length, is explored not because interaction between languages. Opacity, then, is not "enclosure within
he privileges the Caribbean over Europe, but because his writing invests an impenetrable autarchy but subsistence within an irreducible singu-
in and desires both worlds. Rather more problematically; Glissant also 1arity,,; it names not the affirmation of a self-enclosed idiom, but the
cites Fanon's migration from Martinique to France to Algeria as an retention of singular but linguistically complex or relational forms of
example of Relation, although of course this overlooks Fanon's own expression (Glissant 1997c: 190). It is a sign of confluence and inter-
privileging of national identity in the service of the decolonization of change rather than of isolation.
Algeria. One of the most striking developments of The Poetics oj Relation,
A further example of this movement towards the poetics of Relation and indeed of the later volumes of the Poetique series, is the increased
can be found in Baroque art. For Glissant, "baroque art was a reaction emphasis on this relationality as a new form of totality. Glissant repeat-
against the rationalist pretense ofpenetrating the mysteries of the known edly criticizes the old Eurocentric universalism that imposes its own
with one uniform and conclusive move" (ibid.: 77). Baroque art enjoys restrictive values and cultural identity on the colonies. This universal-
the proliferation and expansion of aesthetic forms: it turns away from ism is deceptive: it masks its own particularity beneath the myth of
demands for uniformity and eschews transparency. Glissant's celebra- assimilation. Totality, on the other hand, is the vast, inclusive network
tion of the metissage of Baroque art recalls the work of the Cuban writer of relations and interactions performed in Glissant's poetics; it is not

khatibi and glissant 145

144 understanding postcolonialism
a monolithic generalization, but names the whole that is formed by a of artistic production over fixed systems, over tradition and determin-
diverse and pulsating web of connections. Glissant's thought retains ism, and adds to the former discussions of relationality the implication
a latent Hegelianism in this championing of a: dia:Iectic that would of an infinite if at times imperceptible mobility. Glissant's title La Cohee
embrace, or even (inadvertently) subsume, the shocks and juxtaposi- du Lamentin refers to his birthplace in Martinique, and yet any specific
tions it recommends. The dia:Iectic is not totalitarian, it is not absolute, reference to Martinique or the Caribbean in this work is soon subsumed
but nevertheless names a globa:I force of movement and intermin- in the whirlwind of this trembling, so that the archipelago is nothing
gling. Already in The Poetics of Relation, Glissant a:Iso conceives the more than a privileged figure for globa:I movement and relationality.
totality of Relation as the "chaos-monde': not a fusion or confusion, Glissant specifically notes that the danger of evoking the Caribbean as
but the chaotic and unpredictable combination of movements and a unique site of metissage is preCisely the potentia:I occlusion of forms
interactions taking place all over the world. Drawing at times a little of interaction taking place all over the world.
spuriously on the science of chaos theory, Glissant uses the model of It is this effective dissolution of Caribbean specificity, however, that
chaos to describe the contingency and entropic energy of the poetics has troubled some of Glissant's critics. Peter Hallward argues that the
of Relation, and to emphasize its potentially extensive but unpredict- investment in the specificity of Martinique and the construction of
able effects. suba:Itern agency in Glissant's earlier work is thoroughly surpassed in
I suggested at the beginning that Glissant's thought moves further the later texts by a reflection on singular self-differentiation. Beings
and further away from a focus on the specificity of the Caribbean, and are continually evolving, totality is constant and interactions between
certainly the concept of the chaos-monde can be seen to trigger this particular groups are dissolved in this all-encompassing whole. The
relinquishment of a specified poetics grounded in location. The Poetics detour, opacity and the focus on place turn out to function only in the
of Relation is the third volume in Gallimard's repackaged series, and service of their own extinction by the totalizing force of the chaos-monde
the fourth and fifth volumes, Traite du tout-monde and La Cohee du or globality. Indeed, any assertion of opacity takes place in dia:Iogue
Lamentin, clearly develop this embrace of totality at the expense of the with other cultures, and the specificity that might have been repre-
earlier adherence to place. In Traite du tout-monde, Glissant further sented by opacity is diluted and transformed through that dia:Iogue.
elaborates and even systematizes the thought of the chaos-monde or the Any conception of nationa:I agency lingering in Caribbean Discourse is
"tout-monde" as the meeting, the mutua:I interference, the harmony or now disabled by the larger, singular force of totalization, and if fleeting
disharmony between cultures, and this new process is characterized by references to specificity can still be found in The Poetics ofRelation, this
speed, by unpredictability, by self-consciousness and by the cultures' "has little to do with relations-with and-between particularities as such"
mutua:I va:Iorization. In La Cohee du Lamentin, the vocabulary of tota:I- (Hallward 2001: 123). Hallward notes in particular that the change in
ity is coupled with that of "mondialite'" or "globality': distinct from the Glissant's reaction to Perse from Caribbean Discourse to The Poetics
neo-imperialism of ''globalization': and deployed to evoke diversity and of Relation performs this problematic shift, in that in the earlier work
relationality across the planet: Perse was condemned for not offering a sufficiently specific vision of
the Caribbean, whereas in The Poetics of Relation he is lauded for his
this globa:Iity projects into the unprecedented adventure that performance of relationality. Ultimately, for Hallward, the upshot of
is given to all of us to live through today, and into a world, this shift is a disastrous rejection of the very concepts that founded
which, for the first time, so truly and in such an immediate, the politica:I bases of Caribbean Discourse: "there can be no nationa:I
sudden way, conceives itself as both multiple and One, and repossession, for dispossession is now the condition (and opportunity)
inextricable. (Glissant 2005: 15) of Creative reality itself" (ibid.: 124-5).
Hallward may well be correct in his diagnosis of Glissant's startling
In addition, Glissant describes the totality of relations as a trembling; disengagement from politics; indeed, the defence of Glissant's politi-
this evokes both the trembling of peoples in the face of disaster, and the ca:I efficacy offered by more positive critics such as Michael Dash can
bUZZing movement produced by migration, travel and cu1tura:I inter- seem a little weak. The call for the liberation of Martinique, still press-
change. Glissant's concept of trembling privileges the agitation of forms ing in Caribbean Discourse, was nevertheless clearly even then bound

146 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 147

up with ruses and strategies that were conceived only in the interests of political altogether. Glissant's championing of opacity is also reminiscent
their eventual surpassing, and the seeds of "globality" lie in that early ofBhabha's later affirmation of the rights of minority cultures, especially
investment in "depassement" or development. Furthermore, if politics when conceived by a critic such as Britton as "an ethical value and a
and poetics do to some extent diverge in Glissant's work, then this may political right" (1999: 25). When conceived merely as part of the infinite
serve the purpose precisely of creating a space for forms of cultural pro- trembling of the poetics of Relation, however, opacity loses its politi-
duction unconstrained by militancy. In The Poetics ofRelation, Glissant cal force and becomes more of a focus of energizing, but ungrounded,
argues for a liberatory aesthetics, and although this is clearly related to cultural experimentation. Indeed, in the recent musings on aesthetics
the denunciation of colonial thinking, the poetic forms recommended by gathered in the volume Une nouvelle region du monde (2006), Glissant
Glissant do not have to function in the service of a specified anti -colonial explicitly champions the role of aesthetics before ethics and politics, and
movement. Like Hallward, Bongie articulates the difficulties of Glis- the dynamism of relation is associated with aesthetic beauty. Clearly,
sant's political disengagement in his essay "Edouard Glissant: Dealing in then, Glissant moves from the at once ethically and politically impas-
Globality" (2008), and yet it is perhaps useful that Bongie nevertheless sioned treatise of Caribbean Discourse to a much more literary and aes-
concludes by conceding that: thetic vision of infinite cultural relationality, and the latter's ambitious
sweep undoubtedly undermines its political resonance in the place from
the work of the late Glissant provides a valuable reminder of which it was engendered. Yet that latter stage remains provocative and
the distance between culture and politics, even if its serene enriching perhaps precisely because it imagines an aesthetic and cul-
composure cannot help but create a nostalgia for the "rough tural ethics that liberates artistic production from the requirements of
futures" that a resistant politics, an anti-colonial politics capa- immediate political engagement, and suggests that poetics has a role
ble not merely of dissenting from but of combating the impe- that is distinct from that of concrete independence movements. Glissant
rial aspirations of the thuggish proponents of Empire, cannot in this way advocates a form of literary and linguistic experimentation
help but continue to envision. (Bongie 2009) that responds to postcoloniality and sets out to liberate thought from
imperialist metaphysics, but that is not subservient to the goal of regime
From this point of view, it might be argued that Glissant is unusually change. Caribbean Discourse offers a vision of ethical and political criti-
bold among postcolonial thinkers in that he does not promote a banal cism rooted in the experiences of Martinique. The Poetics ofRelation and
"cultural politics" but conceives a role for aesthetics as a site of experi- the later works, however, are provocative above all as a result of their
mentation not necessarily linked to the concrete demand for political defiant search for an unprecedented postcolonial aesthetics.
independence. The poetics of Relation insists on the liberation of the
imaginary before the overthrow of political oppression.
Finally, the division in Glissant's work can be seen to recall the schism Key points
ofDerrida's reflections on politics and ethics, although there is no doubt
that Derrida for the most part retains a self-awareness and rigour at Khatibi allies decolonization with deconstruction, and recom-
times lacking in Glissant's cultural utopianism. Despite separating the mends (with Derrida) the affirmation of a "pensee autre" ("other
demands of ethics and politics, moreover, Derrida nevertheless argues thought") that would attend to cultural differences. He also evolves
for the necessity of thinking each alongside the other, however uncom- a theory of bilingualism that explores both the alienating effects,
fortable or uneasy a process this might be. Glissant's celebration ofpoet- and the creative potential, of writing across two languages.
ics is also largely ethical, and is reminiscent of Derridean thought in its Khatibi's general postcolonial theory of bilingualism is coupled
rejection of origins, territorialism and borders, and in its exploration with detailed exploration of Moroccan, Arab and Islamic cultures.
of singular self-differentiation and being as a "trace". Nevertheless, if He criticizes Berque for conceiving Arab culture in generalized
Glissant's work recalls that ofDerrida, he also invests much more in the terms, and investigates calligraphic art as a form of representation
role not only of ethics but of poetics or aesthetics, and it is perhaps in that opens up the relation between sign and referent in challen-
the text's creative and evocative whirlwind that it loses touch with the ging, and ethical, ways.

148 understanding postcolonialism khatibi and glissant 149

Glissant's Caribbean Discourse calls for the liberation of Martinique
as well as for a celebration of cultural relationality not unrelated
to Khatibi's ''pensee autre: Glissant presents Caribbean culture
or "Antillanite'" as multiple and diverse, and affirms the creative
potential of "detour' or "diversion" rather than the straightfor-
ward return to roots.
Glissant's later work is less political than Caribbean Discourse, seven
and concentrates on the cultural and aesthetic productivity of
"Antillanite'" as a site of relationality. Glissant also incorporates Ethics with politics? Spivak/ Mudimbe/
the Caribbean into the "chaos-monde: a bUZZing, trembling global
network of multiple connections capable of bringing cultural Mbembe
innovation and change. This later divorce between culture and
politics is a useful sign of the distinct roles played by each in
postcolonial criticism.

The work of many of the postcolonial thinkers discussed in this book

has both ethical and political implications, yet most tend to privilege
one approach over the other. Fanon and Sartre's militancy is under-
pinned by an ethical call for freedom and subjective self-invention,
but theIr first objective is the decolonization of Algeria, whereas for
thinkers such as Derrida and Bhabha it is the ethical awareness of the
other's intractability that initially provides the basis for political lib-
eration. Moreover, one can detect in Glissant's evolving trajectory, and
in Said's movement between Palestinian politics or Islam and literary
criticism, a distinction between writing that is first and foremost politi-
cal, and that which insists above all on an ethical or cultural agenda. It
is Spivak, Mudimbe and Achille Mbembe, however, who engage most
explicitly throughout their work both with Marxist political theory and
with a form of ethical thinking derived from deconstruction. Particu-
larly in the work of Spivak, this duality can lead to contradiction, since
at times she calls for a renewed understanding of subaltern political
agency while at others the subaltern is a more intractable figure signi-
fying the resistance of the other to concrete forms of representation.
Such contradictions are never fully resolved in Spivak's work, although
she comes up with the notion of "strategic essentialism" in an effort to
argue that specific claims for agency might rest on the assertion of an
identity, but that identity does not necessarily acquire permanence or
"truth': Nevertheless, the eclecticism of Spivak, Mudimbe and Mbembe
finally suggests that, while politics and ethics do indeed require differ-
ent modes of thinking, these different modes are both necessary for an

150 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politics? 151

understanding of postcolonialism and, indeed, the challenge is to keep warn the reader of the loopholes and obstacles obstructing the process
both in play without falling prey to the shortcomings associated with of forming a postcolonial critique. For many critics this recurrent self-
the programmatic use of either. These three thinkers are treated together doubt borders on a crippling narcissism that gets in the way of Spivak's
here, then, because despite the differences in their focus - Mudimbe attending to the real mechanics of colonial oppression, and certainly
and Mbembe write specifically about colonial and postcolonial Africa at times her work seems as much concerned with the self, and with
- they all draw at once on Marxism and on poststructuralist ethics, and the work of "Theory': as with the other. Spivak's self-consciousness is
in so doing demonstrate the inevitable multivalency of postcolonial nonetheless highly provocative since, like that of Derrida, it forces us
philosophical reflection. to ask the fundamental question ofwhat postcolonial philosoph~ is and
does. The implications of Spivak's anxiety will be discussed at the end
of this section.
Gayatri Spivak One of the major strands of Spivak's work, then, is her championing
of the work of Marx, which she argues is unique and provocative as a
Spivak grew up in Calcutta, where she took her undergraduate degree result ofits revolutionary exegesis of global capitalism. She reads Marx
in English, and she went on to complete her graduate work at Cornell for his generalized political and economic understanding of capital as
while also teaching at Iowa in the United States. She now teaches at it functions across the globe, and goes on to use some of his concepts
Columbia University in New York, and although earlier in her career she to explore the mechanics of postcolonial or neo-imperialist oppression.
was perhaps best known as the translator ofDerrida's OJ Grammatology, Unusually, moreover, Spivak at the same time focuses on the intricacies
her prolific writings on postcolonialism have more recently led her to of Marx's texts and strains against readings that conceive his thought as
become one of the field's most cited thinkers. Spivak's work broadly sets deterministic and reductive. One of her most famous essays on Marx,
out to rescue the "subaltern" both from the structures of imperialist and "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value" (1996b), for exam-
neo-imperialist oppression, and from the voracious grasp of Western ple, explores the slippery construction of the notion of value in Marx,
academics whose discourse newly occludes and silences the subjugated and also expands Marx's critique of the bourgeois ruling class so as to
non-Western other. In this way her thinking is clearly aligned with that question the inequalities subtending the very academic activity in which
of the Subaltern Studies Collective, and she regularly contributed art- she herself is engaged. Spivak starts by raising the question of how to
icles to the journal, although she is treated separately here because her conceive the subject in terms that are neither wholly "materialist" nor
work reaches beyond their remit in a number of ways. entirely "idealist". In order to answer this, she goes on to identify the
First, Spivak draws not only on Marx's theories of economic exploi- potential flexibility and openness in Marx's writing on value and to stress
tation and on Foucault's analyses of the complicity between power and the "textuality" of his materialist writing. Spivak then shows that value is
knowledge, but also on Derrida's explorations of the inaccessible and conceived in Marx as a representation, and even more, as a differential:
singular other alienated in language. Secondly, Spivak's work is distinc- "what is represented or represents itself in the commodity differen-
tive for its focus on gender: when she writes about the oppression of the tial is Value" (Spivak 1996b: 114). Yet having established this, she next
subaltern, she examines specifically the double subjugation ofwomen by demonstrates that in linking labour to value and money via representa-
imperialism and by patriarchy. It has been objected more than once that tion, Marx's thinking masks several discontinuities, such as the fact that
a significant failure in postcolonial studies is the lack of attention par- money is "separated from its own being as commodity': or that money
ticularly to female oppression offered by its major representatives, and it is a sort of "vanishing moment facilitating the exchange between two
is perhaps true that Spivak is one of the few renowned voices in the field commodities" (ibid.: 115). As a result, Spivak argues of Marx's schema
consistently to analyse the suffering of subaltern women. While Bhabha on the relation between value, money and capital that "at each step of
scarcely mentions gender anywhere in his work, Spivak conceives her the dialectic something seems to lead off into the ,open-endedness of
postcolonial critique as necessarily always feminist. Thirdly, Spivak's textuality: indifference, inadequation, rupture" (ibid.: 116). The process
work is unusual in its constant, even excessive, self-consciousness, and of representation inherent in Marx's model masks this ambivalence or
confessions of perpetual anxiety about her own work repeatedly serve to slippage. Spivak also pinpoints the ambiguity of the notion of use-value,

ethics with politiCS? 153

152 understanding postcoionialism
suggesting that it is both inside and outside the system of value deter- (1995), Spivak's careful engagement with Derrida's Specters of Marx
tninations, because it is not part of the circuit of exchange, and yet the (1994), Spivak continues to acknowledge her debt to Derrida and to
notion of exchange-value nevertheless relies on the notion of use. This endorse his ethics, while developing previous observations that he fails
reading of Marx is "textualist': in that it explores the hidden confusions to attend to women's suffering as a result of the international division
of Marx's writing even as it celebrates their pertinence. oflabour. Spivak also complains that when he pinpoints the ten plagues
Spivak's "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value" prob- of the modern world, he blurs distinct types of value and fails to com-
lematizes Marx's notion of value in order to reject accusations that his prehend "the connection between industrial capitalism, colonialism,
thougpt is deterministic, but she also goes on to use it to show that so-called postindustrial capitalism, neo-colonialism, electronified capi-
the literary academy too supports the international division oflabour. talism, and the current financialization of the globe, with the attendant
Developments in telecommunications further entrench this division, as phenomena of migrancy and ecolOgical disaster" (Spivak 1995: 68).
well as the oppression of women, and Spivak argues that any theory of Most disturbingly, the upshot of Derrida's reading of Marx, according
.value needs to take into account the exploitation carried out in the name to Spivak, is that the subaltern has no place in it.
of the production of technologies on which we rely. In addition, Spivak The innovation of Spivak's readings of Marx is her emphasis on tex-
stresses that Marx's materialist notion ofvalue should be used to under- tual indeterminacies, and it is perhaps ironic that she uses a deconstruc-
stand processes of canon formation, and she suggests it would be fruitful tive strategy while criticizing Derrida's own use of Marx. Her writing on
"to pursue the evaluation of the pervasive and tacit gesture that accepts Marx testifies to an extraordinary amalgamation of support for his highly
the history of style-formations in Western European canonical literature materialist, economic analyses, together with exploration of the linguis-
as the evaluation of style as such" (ibid.: 129). Not only is Marxist think- tic indeterminacy that nevertheless characterizes those analyses. Spivak's
ing more complex in its textual formulation than has previously been essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is arguably her most often cited piece
recognized, but its resonance is also more far-reaching than expected, of writing, and it is also here that she displays most overtly her simul-
as is testified by Spivak's application of notions ofvalue and the division taneous affiliation with both Marx and Derrida. On one level, Spivak
oflabour to the sphere of academic and literary study. again draws on Marx, this time in order to explore the difference, and
If Spivak finds a suppleness or ambivalence in Marx's writing, and the problematic confiation, of two forms of representation. The German
uses his understanding of the international division of labour with an "Darstellen" designates "rhetoric-as-trope': or the process of representa-
awareness of the slipperiness of his founding concepts, she nevertheless tion in the sense of a depiction, whereas "Vertreten" names "rhetoric-as-
criticizes Derrida's reading of Marx for its excessive confusion surround- persuasion': or a more political form ofrepresentation. Vertreten involves
ing the notion of value. In "Scattered Speculations on the Question of substitution or "speaking for". Spivak quotes Marx's comment in The
Value': Spivak notes that Derrida conceives capital as "interest-bearing Eighteenth Brumaire ofLouis Bonaparte that "the small peasant propri-
commercial capital" rather than industrial capital, and the result is that etors 'cannot represent themselves; they must be represented'" (1988:
surplus-value for him becomes "the super-adequation of capital rather 276-7), and notes that while Marx specifically uses the term Vertreten, he
than a 'materialist' predication of the subject as super-adequate to itself' exposes the ways in which this form of political representation is elided
(ibid.: 119). Derrida's reading in this way posits the subject as "ideal- with representation as depiction. While the peasants described have no
ist': as consciousness, and as insufficiently materialist. Furthermore, political voice, at the same time they are .also occluded by the forms of
in the essay "Limits and Openings of Marx in Derrida" (1993), Spivak depiction or understanding imposed on them from outside.
concedes that there are valuable political lessons to be learned from The purpose of this further "textualisr' reading of Marx is to demon-
Derrida, but she nevertheless suggests that Derrida's reading in The strate how French philosophers such as Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari
Other Heading of the polysemy in Paul Valery's use ofthe term "capital" are unwittingly guilty of this same slippage. Spivak shows, for example,
displays an inadequate grasp of Marx's concept. Once again, Derrida that in stating that there is no place for representation, only for action,
also misunderstands the notion of surplus-value as an abstract signi- Deleuze too finishes by blurring Darstellen and Vertreten, and leaves
fier of an infinite excess of value, rather than as the specific difference the subaltern subject with no voice. She chides these otherwise highly
between labour-value and exchange-value. Finally, in "Ghostwriting" self-conscious philosophers for failing to think through the two senses

154 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politiCS? 155

of representation, and asserts: "they must note how the staging of the discussions of sati. However, it is Significant that Spivak's argument in
world in representation - its scene of writing, its Darstellung - dis- fact rests on her understanding of subtle slips in the process of represen-
simulates the choice of and need for (heroes: paternal proxies, agents of tation akin to the sorts of ethical awareness subtending Derrida's work.
power - Vertretung' (ibid.: 279). Marxist politics is here inscribed into Spivak shows that the two forms of sanctioned suicide for widows both
the heart of French intellectual work, as Spivak complains that once blur imitation with intention, and it is in this blurring that the women's
again academe itself supports and entrenches the international division voices lie hidden. First, in immolating herself on the husband's funeral
of labour in its very ignoring of the economic underpinnings of the pyre, the widow performs a sort of displaced suicide: she kills herself
philosophical statements it produces. Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, by taking her husband's place. Secondly, when conceived in relation to
and indeed the Subaltern Studies Collective, need to reflect on their the sanctioned suicide of the subject who knows his insubstantiality, the
own practice, and ask "Can the subaltern speak?': or does their work widow's suicide can be seen as a secondary act of mimicry. Spivak notes
too deprive the oppressed subject of a voice? This lapsus is all the more that the DharmaSastra makes an exception here both in its permission
astonishing in the work of thinkers who nevertheless touch on Third of women's suicide, and in its attribution of agency to widows (who were
World issues, and indeed, Spivak reads Foucault's omission of the nar- relegated permanently to a passive, premarital status), in order to justify
rative of imperialism from his discussions of institutions of power as a self-immolation. Yet for Spivak, this agency is fragile, given that it mani-
further example of this silencing. fests itself, as she shows, on this secondary level both in the woman's
Developing the political strand to the essay, Spivak next uses the acting out of her husband's phenomenality and in her taking his place
example of the Hindu practice ofsati, or the self-immolation of widows, on the funeral pyre. Intention here becomes blurred with imitation,
to demonstrate the practical effects of this elision in the process of repre- with mimetic performance, and is as a result in itself unidentifiable and
sentation. On the one hand, colonial officials seeking to abolish the prac- unlocatable. The widows' intention is only a model or a copy, in which
tice of sati can be read as a case of "white men saving brown women from it is ultimately impossible to locate any individual's authentic intention.
brown men': while on the other hand, the Indian nativist riposte was Agency is a lost potential here, the glimmer of a possibility, but it is also
that "the women actually wanted to die" (ibid.: 297). The two positions dissolved because the supposed free choice is just an imitation of a code
serve to legitimize one another, but both exclude the women's voice and created for men, to be used in other contexts.
agency. Police reports included in the records of the East India Company Spivak's identification ofthe blurring between intention and imitation
are, according to Spivak, both ignorant and fragmented, and the imperi- here dearly recalls D errida's understanding of iterability, expounded in
alist attitude towards the practice suggests that the woman is conceived the essay "Signature, Event, Context" in Margins of Philosophy, as the
as an "object of protection from her own kind" (ibid.: 299). Moreover, possibility that a statement, when repeated, can mean something dif-
the Hindu law on sati as it is formulated in the Dharmasastra and the ferent from originally intended. Spivak's attention to this potential but
Rg- Veda is in fact modelled on suicide laws created for men. Accord- hidden shift of meaning in the women's mimetic act of self-immolation
ing to the DharmaSastra, suicide is usually reprehensible, but there are is also close to Derrida's ethical call for an awareness of singularities that
two types of suicide that are permissible. The first is when it arises out exceed both the sovereignty of all language and the colonizer's drive for
of "the knowledge of truth': when "the knowing subject comprehends deterministic knowledge. Furthermore, earlier in the same essay Spivak
the insubstantiality or mere phenomenality (which may be the same had already established the usefulness of Derrida's work for this sort of
thing as nonphenomenality) of its identity" (ibid.). The second form of postcolonial reflection. Reading Of Grammatology, Spivak shows how
suicide that is permitted is when it is accomplished in a particular place Derrida's text uncovers the European subject's "tendency to constitute
of pilgrimage. Women are permitted to kill themselves, then, if they the Other as marginal to ethnocentrism and locates that as the problem
mimic these laws that were originally destined for men. This means that with all logo centric and therefore also all grammatological endeavors"
the woman can "act out" her husband's insubstantiality, or can immolate (ibid.: 293). As in the colonial discourses on sati, the subaltern's voice
herself in the specific place of her husband's funeral pyre. slips outside the European conceptual framework. Even more, Spivak
Part of Spivak's endeavour in this analYSis is to trace the wom- uses Derrida to conceive the Other here not so much to denote a spe-
en's absence of political representation in both colonial and native cific and identifiable non-European subject, but as "that inaccessible

156 understanding postcoionialism ethics with politics? 157

blankness circumscribed by an interpretable text" (ibid.: 294). Derrida are two perspectives between which there is no common ground, no
does not as a result invoke '1etting the other speak for himself': but terms in which to negotiate. For Spiv~ however, the widow's response
appeals to the "tout autre" or "quite other': a singular, intractable pres- lies in the space between these poles, the space left open by the differ-
ence close in conceptual terms to Levinas's Infinity. An ethical concep- end. Spivak goes on to underline the impossibility for the woman to
tion of the subaltern as this "inaccessible blankness" rather than as a overcome this differend, but indicates that her analysis will end with a
specific subject position prevents the postcolonial philosopher from reflection on "an idiomatic moment in the scripting of the female body':
over-determining her or speaking in her place, and this prevention is which will remain in the space of the differend, but which is nevertheless
privileged over the achievement of political agency. If, then, on the one not the same as total effacement or silence. Even if this space is one of
hand Spivak uses Marxism to criticize the politics of the representation impossible negotiation, the terminology of space connotes a chink that
of the specific subaltern subject, she also in the same essay cites Derrida can be analysed, rather than outright effacement or ignorance.
in order to emphasize our ethical obligation towards the subalterns This potential field of analysis then relates to Spivak's discussion of
singular intractability. the suicide of Bhubaneswari Bhaduri, a young girl who hanged her-
Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?" was later rewritten and published self at the age of sixteen or seventeen because she was involved in the
again in her monumental A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason (1999), how- armed struggle for Indian independence, but did not want to commit
ever, and it is perhaps significant that the later version is even more an assassination. She killed herself while menstruating, however, so
self-conscious about the ethics of the theorist's own writing. She omits that it was clear that it was not because she was pregnant as a result of
a number of sections in the later version, such as her comments near an illicit affair, and Spivak shows how reports and accounts of the story
the beginning of the discussion of the sati stressing the relationship again gloss over her actual motivations. In the earlier version, Spivak
between information retrieval in anthropology, political science, history concludes the discussion with the stark statement: "the subaltern cannot
and SOciology on the one hand, and her own challenge to the construc- speak': In the revised version, however, she admits that this was an
tion of a subject position that underpins such work on the other. The inadvisable remark since, of course, in its certainty it silenced the very
paragraph containing this assertion is absent from the version printed in other whose voice she was trying to rescue. The aim was not so much to
A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason, suggesting that she no longer wants to reinforce the effacement of the subalterns voice, as to problematize the
make such bold claims for her strategy. This later version is clearly more endeavour to respond in her place. In the later version of the essay, then,
doubtful about its broader resonance and impact than the earlier text. Spivak attempts not to stress the foreclosure ofBhaduri's speech, but to
Furthermore, the revised version is less trenchant, and contains more leave the text open enough to reveal the ambivalence of her gesture, to
discussion, and more ambivalence, about its own practice. Here, Spivak allow the uncertainty of the act to emerge through the lines of her own
precedes her analysis of the DharmaSiistra with the observation that the reading rather than to speak in the other's place.
colonial subject normalizes the notion of "woman' in this context and In this way, by the time of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Spivak
avoids the question of psycho biography, and she goes on to as~ "what emerges as a careful reader ofherself and also of others, and although she
is it to ask the question of psychobiography?" (1999: 291). The ques- still shifts erratically between affiliation with Marx and Derrida, much
tion remains unanswered, but indicates the impossibility of telling the of the work consists in attentive readings of both political and ethical
subaltern womans biographical story, and introduces a further level of injustice. The revised version of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is printed in
methodolOgical unease absent from the earlier version. a section on "History': and hinges, as I suggested, on careful engagement
In addition, in the later version Spivak inserts a further section devel- with archives on the sati with the aim both of unearthing past forms of
oping the resonance ofJean-Frans;ois Lyotard's concept of the differend political oppression and the collusion of these with unethical silencing.
as a signifier of the impasse or block between two incompatible posi- In addition to the "History" section, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason
tions, and the expansion of this analysis indicates a less dogmatic atti- also includes a chapter on "Philosophy" comprising subtle readings of
tude to the subalterns silencing. Spivak describes the aporia between the particular details in Kant, Hegel and Marx. Spivak tracks the troubled
patriarchal admiration of the womens free will and the rhetoric of colo- position of the "native informant': and again, she moves from a more
nial benevolence by quoting Lyotard at length, and stresses that these ethical critique of Kant and Hegel's blindness to the Third World Other

158 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politics? 159

to a regeneration of Marx, although this will again be based on the latent with imperialism, but nevertheless one where "the master alone has
"textualism" of his writing. First, Spivak analyses Kant's treatment of a history" (ibid.: 140). Finally, Mahasweta Devi's story "Pterodactyl,
the concept of "man" in the three critiques, and notes that, in a passing Pirtha, and Puran Suhay" shifts the discussion to the postcolonial con-
gesture of dismissal, Kant suggests that "the New Hollander or the man text. Spivak argues that the work deliberately constructs the colonized
from Tierra del Fuego cannot be the subject of speech or judgment in as subaltern rather than citizen, and figures the pterodactyl, which "may
the world of the Critique" (Spivak 1999: 26). This failure to conceive be the soul of ancestors': as an impossibility whose portrayal is also sepa-
the other or the "native informant" as human is exemplary of the very rated structurally from the frame of the story. This deliberately mimics
forms of postcolonial exclusion against which Spivak's work tirelessly the marginalization oflocal history by dominant colonial discourses.
rails. Equally, Hegel's aesthetics contains comments on the Bhagavad Spivak's chapter on "literature" also contains readings of three "mas-
Gita but, although Hegel's remarks are benevolent, "they still finally point culine" texts, including literary texts by Baudelaire, Kipling and a paper
at the mindless gift for making shapes [verstandlose Gestaltungsgabe] laid before the East India Company, in order to offer further evidence
and an absence of the push into history" (ibid.: 44). Spivak then goes of imperialist ideology even within writing that is conceived as oppo-
on to show that in fact the representation of time in the Bhagavad Gita sitional. 'These are then contrasted with exploration of J. M. Coetzee's
does follow a Hegelian model: "'Hegel' and the 'Gita' can be read as two Foe, in which the "native" is this time also an agent. 'There will not be
rather different versions of the manipulation of the question of history space here to discuss each of these readings in turn; however, Spivak's
in a political interest, for the apparent disclosure of the Law" (ibid.: 58). strategy is once again to uncover the ways in which the subaltern is
Finally, Spivak returns to Marx and notes that despite the apparent stasis not only politically subjugated but also unethically marginalized within
and generalization of the concept of the Asiatic mode of production, it literary discourse. 'The final section of A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason
does function as a useful, non-empirical figure for difference in Marx. revolves slightly more loosely around "culture': and contains a discus-
'The rest of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason continues to track the .sion of Frederic Jameson's conception of postmodernism and late capi-
troubled representation of the "native informant" and stresses in par- talism. Spivak notes that Jameson's theory at once attempts to obliterate
ticular the occlusion of the female subaltern. A section on "literature': the notion of a secure subject position and continues paradoxically to
made up largely of previously published essays, explores the double rely on its presence. This contradiction emerges in part from Jameson's
subjugation of the Third World woman and, again, the textual emphasis use ofDerrida, since in order to decentre the subject, deconstruction too
of the section suggests a call for ethical attention to the violence of impe- must retain a notion of the centred subject. Spivak also invokes several
rialist forms of representation and silencing. Spivak begins by discuss- examples from the fashion industry, including Barthes's Empire ofSigns
ing Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, in which the figure of Bertha Mason, (1983), to uncover the repeated assumption of a neutralized European
the white Jamaican Creole, is described in terms that blur the border "1" that forecloses the native informant:
between human and animal; indeed, Jane refers from time to time to
her desire to free women of the Third World from their ignorance throughout this book, my point has been that the subject-
and servitude. Spivak also discusses a passage in which Mr Rochester position of this I is historically constructed and produced so
recounts the return to Europe from the West Indies as a divine injunc- that it can become transparent at will (even when belonging
tion, and the site of the imperialist conquest is conceived as Hen. In to the indigenous postcolonial elite turned diasporic like the
Jean Rhys's rewriting of Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, however, Bertha present writer). (Ibid.: 343)
Mason's humanity is left intact, and Spivak also draws out Rhys's use of
metaphors of mirroring to argue that the text depicts the colonial subject 'The culture of the native informant, however, is "always on the run"; its
confronted with the image of itself as other. She notes in addition that constant self-singularizing eludes the European discourses that repeat-
the colonized other of the text is less Bertha!Antoinette than the black edly but fruitlessly seek to grasp it.
plantation slave Christophine, a deliberately marginalized figure, and yet The distinctiveness of much of Spivak's work, moreover, stems from
the only one capable of judging and analysing Rochester. Spivak's next her awareness of her own complicity with the discourses she sets out
example is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a text not explicitly concerned to undermine. Constantly vigilant about her own position, Spivak

160 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politics? 161

characterizes her theory not as a source of knowledge but as a form the means by which she might consolidate her identity and voice. For
of anxious self-reflexivity, the offering up of a set of propositions and Hallward, "the subaltern, in other words, is the theoretically untouch-
their immediate questioning or withdrawal. She critiques the assumed able, the altogether-beyond-relation: the attempt to 'relate' to the-sub-
opposition between positivism or essentialism and Theory, and suggests altern defines what Spivak will quite appropriately name an 'impOSSible
that this very division makes of Theory an artificially distinct category ethical singularity'" (2001: 30).
in which, again, "the position of the investigator remains unquestioned" Against Young, then, these critics imply that Spivak's self-conscious
(ibid.: 283). "Theory': with a capital T signifying a grand narrative or ethics backfires, and that her deconstructive conception of the intracta-
master discourse, is undermined in favour of Spivak's own "implausible bIe subaltern is politically ineffective. Yet Spivak herself ultimately levels
and impertinent readings': her "obtuse angling" constantly in dispute many of the same objections at Derrida's work, and while her appendix
with itself. Spivak also peppers her work with autobiographical reflec- to A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason suggests that there are ways in which
tions, partly in order to confess the limitations of her vision, her poten- Derridean thought might turn out to be useful for marginalized cultural
tial partiality or blindness, although it is significant that even these are groups, "the possibility of these connections remains dubious as long
usually fleeting and often ironic or self-contradictory. Spivak wants both as the 'setting-to-work' mode remains caught within the descriptive
to emphasize that her discourse is necessarily subjective or incomplete, and/or formalizing practices of the academic or disciplinary calculus"
and to avoid falling into the trap of narcissism by altering or indeed (Spivak 1999: 429). It would seem that Spivak persists in wanting to
quickly retracting her autobiographical voice before it hardens into an combine the use of deconstructive ethics, learned from Derrida, with
established, identitarian subject position. Equally, her constant revision a more pragmatic, empirical and economic objective. Her fluctuating
and rewriting of her work suggests that she does not conceive her argu- attitude to the work of Derrida is in turn mirrored by an idiosyncratic
ments to be finite and immutable. Her prose is frequently criticized for engagement with Marx, whereby she by turns applauds the systematic
its convolutions, but Spivak's difficulty stems from her ability constantly analysis of global praxis and opens up the Marxian text to reveal its
to refine, explore and interrogate her own arguments, and her desire to hidden slippages, its ambivalences and its resistance to determinism.
present her standpoints as part of an evolution, an internal debate. All It is difficult to resolve Spivak's eclectic engagements with Marx
these features of the writing perform an ethical resistance to mastery and Derrida and to extract from her work an overarching or at least a
and an openness to the alterities that the critic cannot capture. dominant approach to postcoloniallsm. Where her provocation, or for
The success of Spivak's writing strategy remains nevertheless a sub- some her difficulty, lies is in her unusually sensitive writing and reading
ject of some controversy. In White Mythologies (1990), Young discusses strategies. Her eclecticism and her self-conscious anxiety do not offer
Spivak's interrogation of Western discourses on the Third World and a single model of critique but precisely warn against the adoption of
notes her vigilance towards the ways in which her own discourse risks the sort of dogmatic, determinist discourse that occludes the subalter-
perpetuating the structures she criticizes, but he asserts at the same time nity to which it claims to attend. Postcolonial theory must avoid either
that she does retain a classical Marxist position. Conversely, however, assimilating or excluding the others it examines, and it must reveal its
Eagleton laments that Spivak spends so much time examining the bad situatedness, rather than claiming the transparency and neutrality of
faith of her own writing that she fails properly to address the political the Western discourses that Spivak denounces. As Michael Syrcitinski
mechanics of colonial oppression. In addition, Parry famously objects points out, Spivak's engagement with materialism in Derrida and Marx
that Spivak exaggerates the importance of the work of the postcolonial also seeks to undermine facile oppositions between empirical practice
female intellectual, and that her endless critiques of the Western insti- and "textualism': and offers a compelling example of the necessity of a
tution still leave no space for the voice of the subaltern. Ultimately, careful "labour of reading" applied to both (Syrotinski 2007: 59). Cer-
and in spite of herself, "Spivak in her own writings severely restricts tainly, Spivak's acuity is most apparent in her readings of other think-
(eliminates?) the space in which the colonized can be written back into ers, writers and critics, and what her work recommends is this form
SOciety" (Parry 2004: 23). Furthermore, with perhaps more nuance, of ethical, attentive reading as a means of understanding all the face;ts
Hallward criticizes Spivak's concept of the subaltern for positing her of postcolonial oppression, including the political and the economic.
voice as singular and inaccessible, and for failing to think through Spivak at times seems to privilege politics over ethics, and at others it is

ethics with politics? 163

162 understanding postcolonialism
ethics that comes before politics, but it is in her readings that it becomes convolutions of his intellectual trajectory, are perhaps best summed up
clear how attention to the workings, and blindnesses, of ideological dis- by his own comment at the opening of Parables and Fables: ''here I was,
course is relevant to an understanding ofparticular instances of political so to speak, the margin of margins: black, Catholic, African, yet agnostic;
oppression. Her writing does not call for the sorts of immediate political intellectually Marxist, disposed toward psychoanalysis, yet a specialist
action found in Fanon, Sartre or Gandhi, but it does suggest that atten- in Indo-European philology and philosophy" (1991: x).
tive reading can offer insight into specific moments of both ethical and Mudimbe writes in both English and French, and has published both
political violation. novels and philosophical works, but his most famous text is perhaps
The Invention ofAfrica, published in 1988. Like Mudimbe's subsequent
works Parables and Fables and The Idea ofAfrica (1994), The Invention
v. Y. Mudimbe ofAfrica seeks to survey and analyse the practice of African philosophy
or "gnosis': a term proposed by the author to refer to "a structured,
The work of Valentin Yves (Vumbi Yoka) Mudimbe evolves out of a very common, and conventional knowledge, but one strictly under the con-
different context from that of Spivak, since Mudimbe engages specifically trol of specific procedures for its use as well as transmission" (1988:
with the discipline of African studies and, although well known in this ix). Like Said, Spivak and the Subaltern Studies Collective, Mudimbe
domain, is less frequently associated with postcolonialism. Mubimbe draws on Foucault to theorize the ways in which power structures are
himself was born in the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic subtended by, as well as actively propagating, the conception or indeed
I of Congo (DRC), although he went to live in a Benedictine monastery in the creation of the other by the West, and he also stresses with Foucault
Rwanda at the age of 9, before studying linguistics in Besanyon, France that the structures under analysis are diverse and discontinuous. Again
and in Louvain, Belgium. Although he taught in DRC between 1973 and like Spivak, Mudimbe asks who is producing knowledge about Africa,
1982, he subsequently moved to the United States in part to escape the and to what extent the discourses shaping that knowledge assimilate the
regime ofMobutu, and he is now a professor at Duke University. In many other into a framework governed by Western assumptions and expec-
i ways Mudimbe's philosophical work can be seen as related to Said's Ori- tations. Unlike Spivak, however, whose "subaltern" remains a singular,
entalism in that his thinking centres on a critique ofthe parallel concepts intractable figure, Mudimbe holds on to a belief in the possibility of
of'l\fricanism" - the production of knowledge about Africa - and the an alternative knowledge, even if, as we shall see, it is not always clear
dangers of allowing that knowledge to be corrupted by forms of ideol- that his writing can access this dreamed authenticity. Mudimbe's fragile
ogy that efface the African other. Mudimbe is treated here alongSide vision of African authenticity will nevertheless provide the basis for a
I Spivak, however, because his work similarly revolves around questions new political and ethical philosophy that recognizes as well as criticizes
of representation, and combines a critical engagement with Marxism the European currents on which it is founded.
, with an ethical denunciation of "the history of the same'~ informed The Invention of Africa opens with a systematic and clearly
, this time by Foucault, as well as by Sartre, Rousseau and Levi-Strauss, Foucauldian analysis of the political and ethical violence inherent in
and, more obliquely, Derrida. His philosophical works shift regularly the project of colonialism. Mudimbe argues that etymolOgically the
between discussion of colonial systems, anthropolOgical methods, reli- term colonialism derives from the Latin" colere", meaning to cultivate
gious practice and ideology, and philosophy; the critique of Africanism or design, and that the concept has at its root the notion of organization
in this sense incorporates both a call for political freedom and a desire to or arrangement. This process of organization has three facets to it: "the
discover ethical forms of African knowledge released from the shackles procedures of acquiring, distributing, and exploiting lands in colonies;
of "the Same': In his more political moments Mudimbe is nevertheless the policies of domesticating natives; and the manner of managing
highly wary of unmediated forms of empiricism, since he conceives ancient organizations and implementing new modes of production"
these as potentially reductive, while at the same time his call for an ethi- (ibid.: 2). In other words, these three facets include the political domi-
cal awareness of the difficulty of knowing and specifying Africa shies nation of the territory, the (unethical) direction of the local people's
away from excessive textualism and upholds the necessity of seeking identity and mentality, and the seizing of economic control. Mudimbe
real forms of African authenticity. The eclecticism of his work, and the goes on to comment on Marxist analyses of the ways in which overseas

164 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politiCS? 165

territories are restructured and subjected to the colonizer's economic of knowledge that doubts the value of schemata such as that of "norm,
model, although it will emerge that he conceives the Marxist reading rule and system':
itself as excessively generalized and adrift from the specific experiences While criticizing Foucault, however, Mudimbe nevertheless uses his
of individual African communities. Nevertheless, here Mudimbe maps concept of "archaeology" to offer a critique in the rest of the work of
this conception of the colonizer's economic control onto the ideolOgi- various epistemological structures that posit the African as inferior or
cal creation of a whole gamut of oppositions, such as that between the other. The first of these is missionary discourse, which promotes the
traditional and the modern, or between the oral and the written, all of spiritual transformation of Africans. Mudimbe asserts that missionary
which serve to undermine the local culture. Furthermore; it is not only discourse served a crucial role in backing up the expropriation and
the colonial apparatus itself but a broader set of representations and exploitation of conquered lands with its ideology of civilization and
hypotheses that separate and hypostatize cultures according to a domi- spiritual conversion. Africans are depicted according to a variety of
nant and Western set of values. African tourist art is just one example models: they are seen as poor and pagan, or as savages, but their cul-
for Mudimbe of the ways in which, to use distinctly Levinasian terms, ture is always inferior to the great ideals of Christianity. Even Placide
"alterity is a negative category of the Same" (ibid.: 12). And even worse, F. Tempels, who lived among the Luba Katanga people in Central
the practice of anthropology is similarly criticized for an "ethnocen- Africa for more then ten years, doubts myths of African backwardness
trism" linked both to the specific episteme defining the discipline and to while nevertheless promoting a Christian policy for the improvement
various moral or behavioural attitudes exhibited by anthropologists. of African natives. Subsequent philosophers such as Alexis Kagame
Mudimbe's next section explores in more detail the methodology of refine Tempels's study of Bantu philosophy and stress that the latter
Africanist critique. Here, he develops his engagement with Foucault, is "an organized and rational construction': and both conceive Afri-
and he notes that for the latter, after an epistemological shift at the can culture as "an original alterity>' to be assessed independently (ibid.:
end of the eighteenth century, three paradigms come to structure the 151). Nevertheless, this school of African philosophy, paradoxically for
production of knowledge: "function and norm, conflict and rule, signi- Mudimbe; emerges from a Western epistemological grid. Mudimbe also
fication and system" (ibid.: 26). The movement towards the latter term comments on the negritude movement, and suggests that although it
in each couple brings at the same time both an understanding of the seeks to establish the sorts of African authenticity that he supports, in
plurality of individual codes, and a new unity over and above these the end Sartre's argument that negritude must be part of a dialectic and
within the human sciences. Analysis conducted on the basis of norm, surpass itself makes sense. Similarly, Mudimbe affirms that Senghor's
rule and system privileges the enclosure and internal coherence of the provisional use both of notions of African tradition, and of Marxist
code analysed., and this is used to assume a greater generality. This shift revolution, can be defended precisely because he conceives neither as
coincides with the invention of the concept of "Man" as a subject who a permanent system that would ossify into the history of the Same.
i knows, and the consequence is that "stories about Others, as well as Mudimbe is sensitive to the ambiguities of certain forms of African
commentaries on their differences, are but elements in the history of the knowledge, then, and the chapter on the West Indian observer and
Same and its knowledge" (ibid.: 28). In addition, Mudimbe shows how, commentator E. W. Blyden notes the curious intermingling of colonial
rather than charting the "archaeology" of Western knowledge, Levi- ideology with African nativist views. However, the history of knowledge
Strauss explores the "primitives" and "savages" that the West endeavours about Africa that Mudimbe tracks in The Invention ofAfrica constantly
to caricature, and the upshot of his work is that "the usefulness of a reveals gaps and blanks, biases and hasty assumptions. He finishes by
discourse on others goes beyond the gospel of otherness: there is not wondering whether "the discourses of African gnosis do not obscure a
a normative human culture" (ibid.: 33). Foucault tracks "the history of fundamental reality, their own chose du texte, the primordial African
the Same" while Levi-Strauss rails against its universalizing gestures, discourse in all its variety and multiplicity>' (ibid.: 186). This obscured
but both lament its blindness. According to Mudimbe, however, both "chose du texte" riames the authenticity that lingers elusively behind
Foucault and Levi-Strauss are themselves unable to extract themselves the textual artifice.
, from the history they denounce. Mudimbe seeks rather a methodology Mudimbe's critique of the political exploitation and ethical silencing
faithful to African epistemology: he seeks to retrieve an African order of the African other rests on a deep-seated anxiety about the concept

ethics with politics? 167

166 understanding postcolonialism
of the subject, an anxiety that he theorizes explicitly in Parables and to Mrica an unethical lack of attention to specific African cultural dif-
Fables. Mudimbe reads Sartre's reworking of Descartes, and shows how ferences. Mudimbe examines the use of Marx in the work of Deleuze
Sartre's concept of self-consciousness severs the Cartesian ego's apparent and Guattari, for example, and suggests that although in Anti-Oedipus
mastery and self-presence. For Sartre, being is a tension between the they seek to undermine imperialist forms of history; "they make a
in-itself, the brute materiality of existence, and the for~itself,or reflex- move toward a possible universal historicization of individualities by
ive consciousness. One understands oneself only as an other, or under distinguishing types of interpretation of socioeconomic disharmonies"
the gaze of the other. In addition, Mudimbe cites Rousseau's statement (ibid.: 71). In addition, in a chapter on "Anthropology and Marxist
in his Confessions that "in truth, I am not 'me' but the weakest most Discourse': Mudimbe offers a critique of Peter Rigby's Persistent Pas-
humble of others" (Mudimbe 1991: xiv). Levi-Strauss in turn allows toralists (1983), the upshot of which is a further critique of the Marx-
Rousseau's thinking to inform his conception of ethnology as a con- ist method. Mudimbe reads in detail Rigby's study of the llparakuyo
frontation with the stranger that puts the ethnolOgist's very self into people of East Africa, but argues that Rigby conceives the future of the
question. Mudimbe then notes how in his Mythologiques, Levi-Strauss llparakuyo precisely according to the dreams of the rational, Marx-
reveals how "the master-meaning is always discreet, invisible, beyond ist social scientist. More broadly, figures such as Senghor and, indeed,
the apparent rationality and the lOgical constructs of the visible surface" Mudimbe himself, promoted the "dubious acculturation of Marxism in
(ibid.: xvi). Anthropology or ethnology will always be circling around Africa': but the problem was that they thought in the 1960s that '~ca
this hidden, elusive and unconscious meaning that escapes the secure was an absolutely virgin terrain on which we could experiment and
. framework of the anthropologist's knowledge. In this way, although succeed in organizing socialist societies" (ibid.: 184). Marxists tend to
I Sartre presents consciousness as other to itself, Levi-Strauss goes fur- overlook the question of the specific epistemological roots of their own
i ther, according to Mudimbe, in that he theorizes an unconscious claim discourse.
I to uncover "hidden forms': as well as shOwing how myths perform a Mudimbe's The Idea ofAfrica continues this critique of the creation of
I search for "discreet, unconscious, containing structures" (ibid.:. xvii). Africa as a product ofthe West, and includes further comments both on
i Levi-Strauss also throws into question the position of the anthropologist the political successes of Marxism and on its obfuscation of the African
in relation to the other he analyses. Uneasy about the Western frames of other. This volume also includes examination of myths of Africa reach-
reference to which he adheres here, Mudimbe nevertheless uses these ing as far back as Philostratus's story of Hercules among the pygmies
thinkers to argue that the contemplation of African cultures requires a of Libya, and Mudimbe exposes here the association between pygmies
fundamental rethinking of the way in which the subject conceives itself and backwardness or straightforward stupidity. Equally; Robert Burton's
in relation to the other. The Anatomy of Melancholy (1989) portrays the "savage" as a faceless
Like The Invention of Africa, Parables and Fables sifts through a victim, while dictionaries of the sixteenth century baldly use the term
number of forms of African knowledge or "gnosis" in order to pick '1\.ethiops" to name any dark-skinned person. Mudimbe then notes a
out the difficulties associated with certain philosophical approaches. In change around the 1950s, after which the African becomes an empirical
. the course of his analyses Mudimbe distinguishes three methodolOgi- fact to be observed and studied by the anthropologist, although again the
cal groups: anthropological philosophy, which also includes linguistic tendency remains even now to ~pose various totalizing models (such
philosophy; speculative and critical philosophy; which comprises also as that of Marxism) on the unfamiliar other. Furthermore, museum
metaphilosophy; and, finally; Marxist projects. There will not be space collections of "primitivist" art similarly serve to appropriate African
here to explore all the thinkers analysed by Mudimbe, but it is worth cultures to suit the imagination of the West. Ironically, even local dis-
noting nevertheless his ambivalence towards Marxism. Although he courses on Africa, an extreme example of which might be Mobutuism,
identifies himself as a Marxist intellectual in the extract from Parables turn on "figures and images, analogies and resemblances in figurative
and Fables cited above, he is also deeply sceptical of its universalizing constructions that simulate reality rather than signifying or representing
tendencies and suggests that the generalization of the Marxist model it" (Mudimbe 1994: 145). Almost all the forms of knowledge discussed
is another example of the "history of the same'~ Mudimbe's politics in Mudimbe's text are ultimately fictions that serve only to silence the
may be Marxist, but he also perceives in the application of Marxism subjugated Mrican.

168 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politiCS? 169

One of the dangers ofMudimbe's form ofcriticism, like that ofSpivak, This questioning has a particular resonance in the context of African
is that it can be turned back on itself and denounced for its own failure to studies since, as Mudimbe shows, the African is conventionally per-
attend to the subjugated others it seeks to rescue. D. A. Masolo character- ceived to be incapable of philosophy and consigned to the status of a
izes Mudimbe's work as deconstructive in its stated resistance to philo- savage. It is all the more urgent, then, that the philosopher should locate
sophical mastery or totalization, but he goes on to object that "although authentically African forms of knowledge, although the impact of colo-
Mudimbe makes an important contribution to the debate on the creation nialism on Africa is such that the native is never free from its intellectual
ofknowledge, he lamentably fails to emancipate himself from the vicious influence even after the termination of its political grasp. Christopher
circle inherent in the deconstructionist stance" (Masolo 1994: 179). This Miller's study Theories ofAfricans (1990) explores how the very practice
means that Mubimbe may successfully offer a multitude of examples of of theorizing has been conceived as the exclusive domain of the West-
invented or ideological Africanist representation; he does not offer a erner' who applies his own structures of knowledge to the African "void"
constructive alternative. His readings, from this point of view, mask an or "blank.': Mudimbe's recommendation for a specifically African epis-
inability to redefine African culture authentically and on its own terms. temology in this way directly answers back to a particularly pernicious
Certainly it is true that Mudimbe spends rather more time unravelling set of Africanist stereotypes, even if he remains anxious about how to
, the loopholes and identifying the blindspots of existing discourses than create this authentic knowledge. In addition, it is perhaps also relevant
he does constructing a concrete image ofAfrican identity to replace these that Miller goes on to explain that ethics, in the sense of an openness
deceptive images. Again, like Spivak, his major achievement is perhaps towards the intractable other, is (erroneously) seen to be at odds with
his perceptive engagement with the philosophical archive, and not the any more concrete notion of"ethnos", or an African specificity. Western
creation of a positivist vision of African subjectivity. Marxist thinking promotes an ethics of liberation while glossing over
However, Masolo's critique also rests on a partial misreading of ethnic specificity, and deconstructive ethical thinking promotes atten-
Mudimbe's use of deconstruction, since the latter's deconstructive tion to infinite otherness while excluding particular others. Mudimbe's
project still champions a beliefin African authenticity; and in this search work both rescues the African from the myth of philosophical inepti-
, for an independent, African order of knowledge he certainly reaches tude, then, and goes some way to promoting what Miller conceives as a
, beyond the forms of questioning proposed for example by Derrida. This necessary interplay between ethics and ethnicity in African studies. This
authenticity is provocative, moreover, precisely because it is not figured precarious combination, as in Spivak's work, is the result of profound
in Mudimbe's thought or in his novels as an identifiable essence, but as a self-consciousness and vigilant attention to the conditions and precepts
horizon towards which the writer aspires even ifhe will remain unable of postcolonial philosophy, and it is not always clear that Mudimbe is
to reach it. Indeed, the Mrica ofMudimbe's novels is a site of conflict as able to follow through his celebration of the specific. His awareness of
well as of uncertainty; and he never has recourse to reassuring, nostalgic the multiple requirements of postcolonial African philosophy, includ-
images of an original homeland or tradition. The Rift, for example, is the ing political and ethical requirements, and the need to conceive both
story of an African intellectual in Paris on a quest for African knowledge a specific African ethnos alongSide an understanding of its ineffability;
who struggles to find himselfbetween competing discourses of African nevertheless offers a challenge to postcolonial thinking and exposes the
history, and whose disoriented condition borders on schizophrenia. Just limits of its habitual Marxist and deconstructive para9igms.
as Spivak seeks a form of subaltern agency while underlining the other's
necessary Singularity or intractability, Mudimbe upholds a notion of
specific African knowledge while persisting in depicting that know- Achille Mbembe
ledge as fragmentary, conflictual and elusive. This elusive but specific
, knowledge is at the same time what both Marxism and deconstructive The work of Achille Mbembe clearly emerges out of an engagement
ethics ignore. with Mudimbe and, once again, can be seen ostenSibly as both a politi-
Finally, Mudimbe is another thinker who questions not only political cal and an ethical project. Mbembe was born in Cameroon in 1957,
and economic conditions associated with colonialism and its aftermath, studied history at the Sorbonne and, having worked in various insti-
but also the ethics of reading, writing and theorizing about the other. tutions in the United States, is now a senior researcher at the Wits

170 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politics? 171

Institute for Social and Economic Research in Johannesburg. His most that assures the maintenance, the spread and the permanence of the
famous work, On the Postcolony, was published in English in 2001, and colonial regime. Mbembe uses Derrida here to envisage law as circular
is distinctive among the postcolonial studies discussed here for its focus or self-generating, and its very self-ratifying structure constitutes an act
specifically on political regimes in Africa, after independence, as well as of ethical violence towards the other. Mbembe then takes as a specific
under colonialism. 'This text theorizes contemporary forms of oppres- example the notion of the indigenat, which refers to the sped:frc admin-
sion and exploitation in Africa and offers insight into the troubling istrative system applied to natives in French colonies before 1945 that
and persistent force of neocolonialism. Like the work of Spivak and rested on the creation of a generalized, subordinated category subjected
Mudimbe, Mbembe's writing is diverse and eclectic as a result of its to particular constraints and punishments. 'The practical mechanics of
engagements both with Marxism and with Derridean deconstruction. colonial law, for example the exclusion of the African from citizenship,
His thinking is highly innovative, however, because at the same time were in this way fuelled by an unethical homogenization and subjuga-
it reaches beyond both in its vibrant, almost demonic vision of the tion of native others. This again stems from the empty, self-fulfilling
injustices of the African postcolony. Recalling Mudimbe, Mbembe's ., I drive to control, direct and exploit.
study opens with a critique of prevailing images of the African native 'This tyrannical form of state sovereignty was, moreover, appropri-
as sub-human and, in typically colourful style, the author rails against ated by Africans after decolonization. African traders came to occupy
the "invention" of Africa by the imperialist visions of the West. In order positions as middlemen between colonial firms and consumers and,
to elucidate his critique, however, Mbembe first dismisses "an outdated together with a stratum of well-off planters, finished by perpetuating
Marxist tradition" in favour of a psychoanalytic critique of the con- the old hierarchies after independence. In addition, the new states
struction of the African as Other, only then to lament the absence of a were formed in such a way as to deny individuals rights as citizens, and
framework with which to conceptualize economic exploitation in the Mbembe argues that a structural problem was created because "the act
African postcolony (Mbembe 2001: 5). Mbembe's approach promises to of establishing colonial sovereign authority was never a contract since,
fluctuate, then, between reflection on processes of representation and strictly speaking, it involved no reciprocity oflegally codified obliga-
exegesis of the structures of economic oppression. Moving away from tions between the state, powerholders, society, and individuals" (ibid.:
Mudimbe's call for an African order of knowledge, however, Mbembe's 42). Public affairs quickly became confused with the use of unbridled
study of the entangled forces of tyranny in postcolonial Africa offers a violence, because the structures of authority were, as in the colonial
vision of resistance that operates only within the repetition or simula- model described above, conceived as given. Mbembe goes on to explore
tion of the ritualistic discourse of power. 'There is no authentic African the chaotic economic structures of the new regimes, and observes that
subjectivity in Mbembe's vision, only the suppressed laughter gener- by the 1970s "the bulk of national wealth was, for all practical purposes,
ated by mimicry of a discourse whose oppressiveness is persistent and part of the 'eminent domain' of a tyrant acting as a mercenary with state
unrelenting. funds and the national treasury" (ibid.: 50). One of the consequences
'The first section of On the Postcolony analyses structures of "com- of the economic structural points explored by Mbembe is that African
mandemenf' or governance in Africa and explores the development of nations are unable to fit into the international division of capital. A
these structures in the move from a colonial to a postcolonial regime. stratified labour market, and in some cases the dissolution of the public
Mbembe argues that state sovereignty in the colony rested on the infla- sector, has also led to deepening poverty. This structure of economic
tion of the right to conquest together with the diminution of the right hierarchy and inequality stems, once again, from the violence and cir-
to debate and discussion. Equally, Mbembe uses Derrida's understand- cularity of state sovereignty learned during the colonial period.
ing of the violence of the law to argue that colonial sovereignty was Mbembe's next section examines what he terms the structure of
self-creating and self-perpetuating. Founded on an initial order ofvio- entanglement that perpetuates the violence of postcolonial African
lence, the colonial power then executes asecond order, "to give this regimes. This entanglement names not only the coercion exercised on
order meaning, to justify its necessity and universalizing mission - in individuals, but also "a whole cluster of re-orderings of society, culture,
short, to help produce an imaginary capacity converting the founding and identity, and a series of recent changes in the way power is exercised
violence into authorizing authority" (ibid.: 25). A third order follows and rationalized" (ibid.: 66). At the centre of this cluster is the notion of

172 understanding postcolonialism ethics with pol itics? 173

"private indirect government" and the weakening of state structures, of regime will remain one governed by vacuous theatricality and carnival.
any notion of "public good': Society is run by coercion, hardly any sector The state can be de-authorized through the repetition of its own sym-
is free from venality and corruption, and a crisis in the taxation system boIs of ratification, but this undermining does not alter the practice of
means that there is no longer a necessary bond between the ruler and performance and excess on which the regime continues to rely.
the ruled. If the principle of taxation rests on the notion that both the Mbembe's study goes on to develop this exploration of represen-
state and its citizens mutually owe something to one another, Mbembe tation as a mask through an examination of cartoon images of the
observes that in certain African contexts poorly defined borders and autocrat. The text pushes the analysis of the tyranny of representation
the use of taxes to fund an apparatus of coercion have interrupted that in the postcolony perhaps furthest, however, in the chapter "Out of
principle and have led to the dissolution of the crucial founding notion the World': Here Mbembe examines the function of annihilation and
of common good. oblivion in modern and contemporary discourse on Africa, offering a
The most famous part of Mbembe's analysis, however, must be his vision of terrifying emptiness beneath the simulacra discussed above.
vision of the "vulgarity': excess and theatricality of power in the post- In a manner that recalls Spivak's analysis of HegeYs misapprehension of
colony. Mbembe takes Cameroon as an example of a state in which the Hindu culture, Mbembe explores the Hegelian image of Africa as "a vast
"commandement" is constantly ratified by its own rituals and institu- tumultuous world of drives and sensations, so tumultuous and opaque
tionalized "as a fetish to which the subject is bound, and in the subject's as to be practically impossible to represent, but which words must
deployment of a talent for play, of a sense of fun, that makes him homo nevertheless grasp and anchor in pre-set certainty" (ibid.: 176). Hegel
ludens par excellence" (ibid.: 104). Power is manifested and disseminated explores an African verbal economy in which language is a discordant
through excessive representation, through pomp and fables, as well as cacophony adrift from referentiality, a swarm of noise and energy that
through images of sexual potency. This is equally a regime obsessed with covers only a void. Mbembe notes also how HegeYs Negro is indolent
bodily functions and orifices, and the body becomes the site on which and untrustworthy, and HegeYs words become the arch example of colo-
power is performed and inscribed. The "commandement" fantasizes nial discourse in their reduction of the African native to a facelessness
its power through images of penetration, hence the obsession with ori- that borders on inhumanity. Like Fanon, Mbembe also comments on
fices, and phantasms of virility serve to mime state dominance over its HegeYs dialectic between the master and the slave and the mutual rec-
subjects. At the same time, however, this excessive performance is an ognition of self-consciousness, and he notes that the Negro in Hegel is
empty simulacrum, whose mimicry allows for subtle shifts and hints of in fact deprived of this self-consciousness and consigned to the status
subversion. Mbembe uses Bakhtin to think through the splitting of the of an animal. Even more disturbingly, Mbembe goes on to ask what
image of the simulacrum and its potential opening to a logic of resist- effects this discourse leaves in the postcolony: "what death does one die
ance' although this resistance will always itselfbe an empty practice, a 'after the colony'?" (ibid.: 197). If the Negro was annihilated by colonial
performance rather than an affirmation of agency and a call for change. discourse, in what form does he survive if he is living "when the time
Mbembe argues: to die has passed"? (ibid.: 201). Laughter, for Mbembe, serves as a pos-
sible response to this oblivion, but the analysis ends with a disturbing
People whose identities have been partly confiscated have been reflection on the dislocation or dismemberment of any stable notion
able, precisely because there was this simulacrum, to glue back of existence in the postcolony. Mbembe's study concludes by calling for
together their fragmented identities. By taking over the signs the affirmation of free will, but the book's immersion in the tyranny of
and language of officialdom, they have been able to remythoIo- language as performance gives little sense of how that freedom might
gize their conceptual universe while, in the process, turning the be achieved.
commandement into a sort of zombie. (Ibid.: 11) It can easily be objected that Mbembe's analysis in On the Postcolony
is both somewhat hyperbolic and extraordinarily generalized. The very
If the people can enact passing gestures of resistance, in a manner con- term "postcolony" is a somewhat abstract notion, and critics have sug-
sistent with Bhabha's theory of mimicry as a subversive performance gested that Mbembe's study would benefit from further attention to the
of at once sameness and difference, however, Mbembe stresses that the historical specificity of particular regimes. Like Mudimbe, Mbembe can

174 understanding postcolonialism ethics with politics? 175

also be accused of feeding off the very Western discourses he contests Key points
in his own use of Derrida, Foucault and Bakhtin. Indeed, Mbembe
is apparently less openly self-aware than Mudimbe in his espousal of Spivak's work draws on both Marxism and poststru~turalist
theories and philosophies created in the West. In addition, it is perhaps ethics. Her readings of Marx tend to focus on textual slippages
disturbing that Mbembe does not question whether the slave's capacity and moments of ambivalence, as she explores, for example, the
for revolt in Hegel might provide the Mrican with a model for self- indeterminacy in his notion of value. This form of reading is itself
assertion, and much of the work suggests that there is no clear road to ,I deconstructive, and yet Spivak also criticizes the blindspots of
liberation for the dehumanized African. The deconstruction of state Derrida's engagement with Marx.
power through subversive mimicry is certainly not presented as a coher- One ofSpivaKS key concepts is the "subaltern" or native info~
ent strategy for change. If Mbembe deliberately sets out to undermine ant. Her works denounce the ways in which subaltern women ill
i conventional and facile oppositions between resistance and passivity, particular have been silenced, and she shows how their voices
the liberatory tactics he does recommend do not provide an identifiable echo between the lines of Western philosophy and literature. Her
path to emancipation. work is also distinctive for its self-consciousness, and she con-
While it should be conceded that Spivak, Mudimbe and Mbembe all stantly reminds readers of her own complicity with the imperial-
hold back from offering the sorts of emancipatory vision to be found in ism she sets out to undermine.
Fanon or Gandhi, however, this is perhaps a necessary testimony to the Mudimbe's work consists in a political and ethical critique of
perpetuation of yet more forms of oppression after decolonization. The ''Africanism: Mudimbe vilifies both the mechanics of the colo-
most militant and politicized philosophers explored in this book write nial project and the forms of knowledge that support it. He ar~es
: in the lead-up to independence, and the more anxious, ambivalent that knowledge about Mricans has often incorporated them mto
and troubled work of thinkers such as Spivak, Mudimbe and Mbembe the "history of the Same': He calls for a more authentic form of
suggests that the end of colonial or neocolonial oppression is neither African knowledge, while admitting that this authenticity is dif-
imminent nor easily conceived. With Spivak and Mudimbe, Mbembe ficult to attain.
implies that postcolonial criticism requires both the denunciation of Mbembe criticizes the way in which colonial law homogenizes
political and economic inequality, be it in terms that are clearly Marxist and subjugates the native, but he also denounces the violence of
.. i African regimes in the postcolony. He reveals how these regimes
or post-Marxist, and an awareness of the tyrannical forms and struc-
tures of representation working on postcolOnial societies in diverse are characterized by excess, vulgarity and theatricality, and how
ways. Furthermore, if the international division oflabour, or the newly they also disallow resistance. His analysis is testimony to the dif-
oppressive regimes apparent in some parts of postcolonial Africa, insti- ficulty of overcoming both colonial and postcolonial violence.
tute forms of inequality that these thinkers all vilify, the systematic and
total overthrow of such structures emerges as difficult to imagine. The
ethical critique of the violence of representation is, then, the most sig- . I

nificant strategy by which these thinkers construct their postcolonial

critique, and if Mbembe moves furthest from any claim to subaltern
agency or authenticity, he perhaps comes closest to communicating
the horrors of a neocolonial discourse that uses representation or
performance to back up its regime of tyran.."'1y and violence. He may
merely shake without crumbling the edifice of authority's simulacrum,
but he also reminds us all too lUCidly of the power of representation
when abused to the extreme in a world still ravaged by postcolOnial

176 understanding postcolonialism ethics with polities? 177

Despite the efforts of philosophers, critics and intellectuals, however,
neo-imperialist oppression remains formidable long after many col-
onies achieved independence. The need for postcolonial questioning
did not disappear with the decolonization movements of the 1950s and
1960s; indeed, contemporary power structures are perhaps all the more
pervasive because they are insidious. Glissant's work on Martinique, for
eight example, demonstrates that although national liberation is becoming
less and less viable, the hierarchies and inequalities characteristic of the
Conclusion: neocolonialism and colonial regime in its heyday are far from extinct in the French Over-
seas Departments and Regions today. Mbembes horrifying exegesis of
the future of the discipline i the African postcolony, although abstract, suggests that the drive for
power originally exhibited by the colonizer is now pushed to excess
by local leaders and tyrants in countries such as Cameroon. Moreover,
Spivak reminds us that global capitalism and the international division
of labour have entrenched the subjugation and exploitation initiated
by colonialism and, even more, this neo-imperialist economic oppres-
This book has attempted to demonstrate that postcolonialism is a set sion is supported by Western academics blind to the experiences of the
of at times overlapping and at times distinct strategies aimed at under- subaltern others to whom they claim to attend. Western thinkers rely
mining colonialism, as well as wider forms of imperialist subjugation. on technologies produced in the Third World and ignore the exploita-
Postcolonial philosophy is a complex intermingling of political and tion on which the production of these technologies rests, while at the
ethical thinking, and theorists such as Spivak, Mudimbe and Mbembe same time risking ventriloquizing for the other in their academic work.
show how an understanding of both empirical and discursive struc- Lastly, commentators on postcolonial Latin America such as Jose Carlos
i tures. of op~ression is necessary for the establishment of a critique. If Mariategui serve to demonstrate to critics of British and French neo-
~e~da pornts out that ethics and politics require the deployment of colonialism just how long after independence the effects of imperialist
different sets of concepts (he argues that the former insists on abso- domination persist. Mariategui's Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian
lute openness while the latter requires the creation of norms and Reality explores the ways in which Peru is still, even after emancipa-
rules), most of the thinkers assessed in this study engage at least to tion in 1824, corrupted by the sin of conquest, because the bourgeoisie,
some extent with both levels. Nevertheless, the split among readers of propped up by foreign investors, remains in control of banks and indus-
postcolOnial thought remains palpable. "Materialists" such as Parry try. The Spanish conquistadors destroyed an abundant and progressive
an~ Lazarus tum away from the "textualism" of Bhabha or Spivak, Inca society, and Mariategui insists, at least at the time of publication
while mo:-e "deconstructionist" thinkers such as Syrotinski or Philip in 1927, that the feudal economy that the colonialists instituted has not
Leon.ard IIllpl! that the ethical reading strategies recommended by been overthrown or replaced.
Dernda and hIS followers must be embraced before political liberation Neocolonialism can be seen to operate in three principal ways that
can occur. Certainly, Glissant's work indicates that there should be a can be sketched briefly in this conclusion. First, the inaugural president
~istinct space for cultural and aesthetic postcolonial experimenta- of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, vilifies the persistence of
tion, and when the ethics of relationality is explored through literature colonial domination in the immediate aftermath of decolonization. In
and art it is clear that it should not have to submit to a clear political Neo-colonialism, Nkrumah explains that "the essence of neo-colonialism
agenda. But I hope to have shown that, despite the hostility accom- is that the state which is subject to it is independent and has all the
panying debates among postcolonial readers, postcolOnial ethics and outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic
. politics remain a more or less anxious coupling detectable from Fanon system and thus its political policy is directed from outside' (1965: ix).
to Mbembe. African neocolonial states depend on foreign capital, but that capital is

178 understanding postcolonialism

conclusion 179
not used for the development oflocal initiatives and instead entrenches under a single logic of rule" (Hardt & Negri 2000: xii). Empire from
the exploitation of the poor. International capital controls. the world this point of view is decentred and deterritorialized: it manifests itself
market, at the expense of local regeneration. Furthermore, Nkrumah as a network of power and does not originate in a single source (this is
argues that neocolonialism is pernicious because it executes power not a name for the diffuse power held over the rest of the world by the
without assuming responsibility; it is an insidious ideology that seeks United States). The force of Empire transcends the borders between
to serve the interests only of developed countries. '~d': for example, nations, as well as divisions between the First, Second and 1hird Worlds,
merely increases the debt of 1hird World countries, and specifically and also signals the decline of factory labour in favour of "communi-
, military aid also stalls rather than promotes development since sooner cative, cooperative, and affective labour" (ibid.: xiii). Moreover, its pro-
: or later weapons fall into the hands of the opponents of the neocolonial cesses of globalization bring new economic structures but also regulate
regime and war perpetuates the ex-colony's misery. The only way in social life and human nature itself by means of its regime ofbiopower.
which the African ex-colonies can attempt to resist this powerful and Although Empire names a new order of global domination, however,
omnipresent force, however, is to assert African unity. Nkrumah argues it is not a monolith and its multiple branches and processes may also,
according to Hardt and Negri, trigger the invention of new democratic
forms. Empire presents itself as a broad totality outside history, but the
it is only when artificial boundaries are broken down so as authors of this provocative study nevertheless argue that the movements
to prOvide for viable economic units, and ultimately a single of "the multitude': the poor and disenfranchised, against this apparently
African unit, that Africa will be able to develop industrially transcendent system of Empire might bring alternative, more liberated
for her own sake and ultimately for the sake of a healthy world structures of organization.
economy. (Ibid.: 25) For Hardt and Negri, then, the sorts of postcolOnial criticism offered
by thinkers such as Bhabha engage with old forms of colonialism ~d
However, although Nkrumah's vision of pan-African union, influenced imperialism. Bhabha rails against the binary divisions that pit colomzer
;by Marxism, was politically ambitious, Young points out that his thiuk- against colonized, but Hardt and Negri show how the hybridities he
mg lacked an understanding of the economic unity that might have champions as an alternative are themselves part of this new structure
helped African development in the wake of colonialism. Even more, of Empire. This structure has already moved away from the divisions
:Mudimbe notes that once he was in power Nkrumah's rhetoric started that Bhabha spends his time challenging, and wields its power in a
to ring hollow and he became something of a dictator; he certainly postmodern, multifaceted but global form through institutions such
failed to put his ideals into practice. It is nevertheless significant for as those of international law, the United Nations (UN) and North
1y current purposes that in the wake of independence neocolonial- Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or through the International
,sm was conceived by Nkrumah as the ongoing dominance of foreign Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the
~conomic power over African regeneration. Moreover, Mbembe's study World Bank. While old forms of colonialism revolve around a notion
9 f economics in the postcolony suggests that this foreign influence still
of difference, Hardt and Negri stress that Empire is, on the contrary,
'\Vields power today. blind to difference: "all are welcome within its boundaries, regardless
i Secondly, it is noteworthy that Nkrumah's, and later Spivak's, concep- of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth" (ibid.:
~on of the power ofinternational capital has been seen by Michael Hardt 198). Having accomplished this gesture of assimilation, Empire is, in
~d Antonio Negri to have been transformed more recently into a new, a second movement, capable of recognizing difference, but this must
rpagisterial form of "Empire': This "Empire': according to Hardt and be cultural difference rather than political. This form of difference is
J'jJegri, is quite distinct from colonialism as settlement, as well as from accepted because it can nevertheless be controlled, in a third move-
C11d forms of imperialism that still rely on a notion of state sovereignty. ment, by Empire's all-encompassing embrace: "the triple imperative of
'Ibis new system of Empire has emerged with the decline in the power Empire is incorporate, differentiate, manage" (ibid.: 201). Furthermore,
of the nation state and can be seen as an alternative form of sovereignty in this new structure of Empire migration occurs ona massive scale, but
"composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united while population movements might have the potential to work against

180 understanding postcolonialism conclusion 181

the controlling grasp of Empire, often they lead in the end to further
disenfranchisement and poverty. It is in this mobility that Hardt and commodification of otherness. Ahmad perceives postcolonial theo~
Negri detect a force for the dismantling of Empire, but the manner in a "marketplace of ideas" adrift from real political and econonnc
as of inequality and oppression (Ahmad ~992: 70) . For D.lik
which ~e mul~tude might practically organize itself so as to challenge
questions . IT ,
the dommant sItes of power remains elusive in this new, smoothed-out postcolomalism is "a discourse that seeks to constitute the world ill ~e
order of global capital. self-image of intellectuals who view themselves (or have come to VIew
themselves) as postcolonial intellectuals" (1994: 339) and, like Ahmad,
Hardt and Negri's text is an extraordinarily bold endeavour to rewrite
Marxist theory for the twenty-first century, and it has been highly influ- Dirlik goes on to argue that the focus on culture obfuscates. sp~ci:fic
en?c:I. ~owever, it has also been criticized for its abstract jargon and its
material conditions. Both commentators believe that postcolomal mtel-
pnvilegmg of buzzwords such as "deterritorialization" and "hybridity" lectuals' lack of attention to global capitalism means that they obfus-
over concrete economic analYSis. Slavoj ZiZek comments that the notion cate the oppressive structures they set out to critiqu~. Huggan's. more
of "global citizenship" that Hardt and Negri offer as a force of resistance nuanced study The Postcolonial Exotic (2001) emphaSIZes that thIS s~rt
to ~mpire is hopelessly impractical, since it implies literally the eradi- of criticism might apply to some, but certainly not all, postcolomal
catio~ of state ~orders. Certainly, if Hardt and Negri intend to update thinkers and, indeed, we have already seen that Spivak is ~ighly a:ware analYSIS for the postmodern, post-imperialist era, their writ- of the potential complicity of academic study with the illternatlOnal
: ing lac~ elucidation of the sorts of workable revolutionary strategies
division of labour. For Huggan, the danger lies rather in the broader,
~ound ill Marx or Gramsci Although they argue that the new capital- global commodification of cultural difference. Postcoloniali~ tips over
:. Ism of Empire is vulnerable to attack from the forces of the multitude into a sort of neocolonial exoticism, then, not merely when Its propo-
they fail to offer a properly political account of how that attack migh~ nents draw on culture and theory, but when its consumers fail to read
take place. In addition, in his review of Empire published in the New postcolonial texts properly. In Huggan's tenns, this is:
Left Review in 2000, Gopal Balakrishnan suggests that Hardt and Negri
when creative writers like Salman Rushdie are seen, despite
! underplay the significant role played by the United States in the control
: of global capital in their inflation of the postmodern, deterritorializa- their cosmopolitan background, as representa~ves of 1hir~
: ti?n of Empire. More broadly, Hardt and Negri somewhat prematurely World countries; when literary works like Chinua Achebes
i dIagnose the end of old power structures in their argument that the Things Fall Apart (1958) are gleaned, despite therr: fictional
smooth force field ofEmpire replaces the "striations" of imperialism, its status, for the anthropological infonnation they proVIde; wh~n
.reliance on hierarchies of sovereignty. As Paul Gilroy (2005) has shown, academic concepts like postcolonialism are turned, de~plte
:the recent. rhetOric of "security" has in fact strengthened again the power their historicist pretensions, into watchwords for the fashio~
[of the nation state. The text of Empire is as a result rather closer to the able study of cultural otherness. (2001: vn)
labstract, postmodern creativity of Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand
'flateaus ~an to ~tant Marxism, and dismisses perhaps rather swiftly
An exoticism complicit with neocolonialism occurs precisely through
:the potentially lingering effects of old forms of neo-imperialism. The the misinformed and careless treatment of literary texts.
work deserves mention here, however, because it signals at least the These sorts of observations paint a rather pessimistic view of the
peginnings ofa shift in the workings ofimperialism beyond the confines discipline, and the problems associated with Hardt and Negri's work,
~f the nation state. together with Huggan's denunciation of .the ph~nomenon ~f cultural
: The third approach to neocolonialism pertinent here refers to the commodification, suggest that there remams a failure amon~ m~ellectu
very diSCipline of postcolonial studies. It is perhaps rather strong to als to engage with the structures and mechanics ofpostcolomal mequal-
denouncepostcolOnialism necessarily as a function of neocolOnialism, ity as it manifests itself in the present. The process of decolonization
but radical Marxists such as AlImad and Dirlik nevertheless lament produced militants such as Fanon and Gandhi, but more recent calls for
the c~~licity of postcolOnial academics in the West with capitalism, liberation and equality lack that precision of focus perhaps beca~se the
and vilify the postmodernist celebration of postcolOnial cultures as a forces of oppression are now rather more insidious, diffuse ~d ~ifficult
to pin down. The aporias ofDerrida's thinking around colomalism and
182 understanding postcolonialism
conclusion 183
ethnocentris~ t~stify to a.struggle between different forms of critique,
and the eclectICIsm of SPIvak or Mudimbe equally betrays a restless- Nkrumah conceived neocolonialism as the ongoing dominance
ness and an anxiety concerning the tools necessary for emancipation
of foreign economic power over African regeneration.
and ch~ge. The return to a form of humanism in many thinkers is For Hardt and Negri, the old imperialism has been replaced by
compelling, but it also signals a reliance on old categories rather than "Empire": a diffuse network of power operating beyond the bor-
the ~ve~tion of a n~w idiom. Political science may well be equipped ders of the nation state. "Empire" is linked to the economic and
to ?mpomt the workings and effects of globalization, but postcolonial political forces of globalization and is propagated through organi-
philosophy c~ntinues to struggle to come up with broader conceptual zations such as the IMP, the World Bank, NATO and the UN.
models of reSIstance to postcolonial and neocolonial domination. Critics such as Dirlik suggest that postcolonial studies itself as a
, Finally, h~wever, ~espite the uneasiness that persists in the discipline discipline is complicit with neocolonialism. Huggan argues more
~f postcol~mal studies, what many thinkers writing after decoloniza-
specifically that postcolonial studies have created a new "exotic"
, tion share IS a commitment to careful reading and writing. Unlike the that celebrates literatures from the colonies and ex-colonies but
. c?nsumers to whom Huggan refers, the philosophers explored here are
that elides their historical specificities.
I ngo~ous readers, a~entive to the ways in which colonial power is played The future of postcolonial studies remains uncertain, but the anx-
, out m the production, diffusion and consumption of texts. It is perhaps iety now inherent in the discipline in itself reflects a useful vigi-
: not the role ofpostcolonial philosophers to herald new political regimes, lance with regard to processes of representation, to the challenges
, then, but rather to use their reading strategies to undermine the violent, of reading and writing about cultural difference in the current
~ masterful and ethnocentric modes of thinking that lie at the founda-
postcolonial context.
tions of imperialist and neo-imperialist ideology. These discourses of
postcolonial. violence enact both political and ethical injustice, and
although reSIstance to such injustice may be conceived in neo-Marxist,
! deco~struct!ve, Levinasian or even humanist terms, the philosophical
Iand di~cursive core of that injustice must be denounced. Said, Bhabha
Iand SPIVak, for example, are united in their careful exegeses of the blind-
inesses and errors of the colonial discourses they read and, although their
lap~roaches ~iffer, their critique relies on this attention to the ways in
Iwhich colomal knowledge is created in language and disseminated in
[texts. In a~~ition, postcolonial philosophy offers new modes of writing
[that are VIgilant towards the potential assumptions and biases of the
!critic. To a greater or lesser extent, all the postcolonial thinkers explored
:here learn from their own subtle reading strategies and engender on
!that basis an alternative mode of theorizing that resists temptations of
IIDastery and assimilation. From Said and the Subaltern Studies Collec-
pve ~oug~ ~o Derrida and Spivak, postcolonial philosophers express
F the:r wnting a lucidity, and at times an acute anxiety, in relation
to their own project that stems from an unprecedented awareness of
~e ethics of theorizing itself. This anxiety may rightly be conceived to
lillpede direct political action, and should perhaps be surpassed in the
~ture by a more affirmative mode of discourse, but at the time of writ-
~g it ne-:ertheless testifies to a new openness in philosophical language
'l-ppropnate to the demands of postcolonialism.
conclusion 185
184 understanding postcolonialism
three Decolonization, community, nationalism: Ga'ndhi,
Nandy and the Subaltern Studies Collective

L Why does Gandhi vilify modern civilization?

2. How does Gandhi define Indian civilization?
3. What do you understand by the term "satyagraha"?
4. What does Gandhi mean by "Swaraj"?
5. How does Nandy understand the psychology of colonialism?
6. How does Nandy use Gandhi's thought?
7. What were the main objectives of the Subaltern Studies Collective?
Questions for discussion and revision 8. Why does Chatterjee conceive the Indian nation as ambivalent?

four Foucault and Said: colonial discourse and Orientalism

L How does Foucault theorize the position of the minorities or marginalized

subjects in both Madness and Civilisation and Discipline and Punish?
2. How does Foucault conceive the effect of power on the construction of the
one Introduction individual subject?
3. What criticisms were levelled against Foucault's conceptions of power and
L What is the difference between colonialism and imperialism? subjectivity?
2. What is the difference between postcolonialism and postcoloniality? 4. How does Said define Orientalism?
3. In what ways was Marx ambivalent in his attitude to colonialism? 5. How was Said's Orientalism criticized?
4. How does Marx's theory of ideology inform more recent forms of post- 6. How does Said.'sapproach differ in Culture and Imperialism and in Oriental-
colonial thought? ism?
5. How is Gramscls notion of hegemony distinct from Marx's concept ofideol- 7. What does Said mean by the term "contrapuntal"?
ogy? 8. What are the basic tenets of Said's humanism?
6. Define the Levinasian concepts of Totality and Infinity.
7. What aspects of Levinas's thought can be used to offer a critique of colonial-
ism? five Derrida and Bhabha: self, other and postcolonial ethics
8. How does Levinas conceive the relation between politics and ethics?
L What examples does Derrida offer ofthe ethnocentrism ofWestern philoso-
two Fanon and Sartre: colonial Manichaeism and the call to 2. How does Derrida conceive the relation between language and colonial-
arms ism?
3. How does Derrida conceive the relation between the universal, the specific
L How does Fanon configure the relation between black and white in Black and the singular?
Skin, White Masks? 4. What is the relation between politics and ethics in Derrida's thought?
2. How does Fanon use and critique psychoanalytic models in his analysis of 5. How does Bhabha conceive the role of theory?
colonialism? 6. What does Bhabha mean by the "Third Space"?
3. Analyse Fanon's use of the term "negro". 7. How does Bhabha explore the notion of ambivalence in colonial dis-
4. In what sense is Fanon's thought ethical? course?
5. What does it mean if the colonial structure is "Manichaean"? 8. In what ways is Bhabha's recent writing on minority rights more politicized
6. How does Fanon respond to the politics of nationalism? than the former work?
7. How does Sartre conceive the role of negritude?
8. How does Sartre position the colonizer in relation to the colonized?

questions for discussion and revision 187

186 understanding postcolonialism
six Khatibi and Glissant: postcolonial ethics and the return to

1. How does Khatibi describe his "pensee autre" of the Maghreb?

2. In what ways does Khatibi draw on both poststructuralism and Marxism?
3. What does Khatibi perceive as the effects ofhilingualism?
4. How is Khatibi's thought at once ethical and political?
5. What is the difference between "history" and "History" in Glissant's think-
6. What are the diverse features that make up the notion of"Antillanitr?
7. What does Glissant conceive as the ultimate aim of Caribbean Discourse? Guide to further reading
8. Describe the form of cultural production recommended in The Politics of

seven Ethics with politics? Spivak, Mudimbe, Mbembe

1. How does Spivak read Marx?

2. How does Spivak criticize existing accounts of the Hindu immolation of one Introduction
3. In what ways does Spivak draw on Derrida?
There are several introductions to postcolonialism that might complement the
4. Examine the importance of gender in Spivak's Critique of Postcolonial
Reason. present study. Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory (1993), edited by Patrick
5. What sorts of African "gnosis" does Mudimbe vilify? Williams and Laura Chrisman, contains many key essays. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Grif-
fiths and Helen Tiffin's The Empire Writes Back (1989) is one ofthe first introductions
6. What, for Mudimbe, is the best way to offer resistance to the deluded dis-
courses of Africanism? to postcolonial literature, followed by Elleke Boehmer's Colonial and Postcolonial
Literature (1995). The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies (2004),
7. How does Mbembe theorize the operation of power in the postcolony?
edited by Neil Lazarus, updates some of this earlier work. Ania Loombas Colonial-
8. What, for Mbembe, are the available forms of postcolonial resistance?
ismlPostcolonialism (1998) is an introduction to postcolonial culture and thought,
and Ato Quayson's Postcolonialism (2000) offers an interesting take on the practice
endorsed by the discipline of postcolonial studies. Robert Young's comprehensive
eight Conclusion Postcolonialism (2001) is a long and highly detailed exploration of colonial history
and postcolOnial thought. Young's book includes the best introduction to Marx's
1. How is neocolonialism defined by Nkrumah, by Hardt and Negri, and by views on colonialism, and the slim volume by Marx and Engels On Colonialism
Huggan? (1960) presents a series of extracts in which the philosophers comment on coloni-
2. How might postcolonialism divorce itself from neocolonialism? alism. A lucid introduction to Levinas in general is Colin Davis's Levinas {1996).
3. What does postcolonialism tell us about the power of representation? Howard Caygill's Levinas and the Political (2002) provides a detailed summary of
4. Can postcolOnial ethics and politics be reconciled? his engagement with National Socialism and totalitarianism.

two Fanon and Sartre: colonial Manichaeism and the call to


The two important works by Fanon are Black Skin, White Masks (1968) and The
Wretched ofthe Earth (1967). The best guide to Fanon's work is Nigel Gibson, Frantz
Fanon (2003). David Macey's biography Frantz Fanon (2000) helps to situate his
work in the context ofhis career and political activism. Ato Sekyi-Oto's book Fanon's
1;88 understanding postcoioniatism
further reading 189
Dialectic oJExperience (1996) offers a detailed reading of the philosophical under- deconstruction in White Mythologies and in the essay "Deconstruction and the Post-
,pinnings of his work, and Lewis Gordon, D. Sharpley-Whiting and R. T. White's colonial" (2000). Michael Syrotinski's Deconstruction and the Postcolonial (2007)
edited collection Fanon (1996) includes essays on a variety of aspects of his thought. contains exposition not only ofDerridas relation with postcolonialism but also that
Sartre's Orphee noir (1948b) presents his views on negritude, and the volume Colo- of deconstruction more broadly, as does Philip Leonard's Nationality between Post-
nialism and Neocolonialism (2001) offers a useful survey of Sartre's writing on colo- structuralism and Postcolonial Theory (2005). Homi Bhabhis key work is the volume
inialiSm. Young's White Mythologies (1990) situates Sartre in relation to the broader The Location oj Culture (1994). An example of his .recent writing on rights is "On
ihistory of colonialism and postcolonialism in twentieth-century thought. Writing Rights" (2003). Criticism of Bhabha is abundant, but good examples are
again Young's White Mythologies and Moore-Gilbert's Postcolonial Theory. Young's
Colonial Desire (1995) is an intriguing study of the notion of hybridity, used by
three Decolonization, community, nationalism: Gandhi, Bhabha. David Huddart's Homi K. Bhabha (2005) is a useful summary of Bhabhas
Nandy, and the Subaltern Studies Collective thought, also containing discussion of the recent work on minority rights.

IA useful selection of Gandhi's writing can be found in The Essential Gandhi (1962),
land his An Autobiography or The Story oj My Experiments with Truth (1982) six Khatibi and Glissant: postcolonial ethics and the return to
~ogether with Hind Swaraj (1997) also clarify his intellectual development and key place
fdeas. Dennis Dalton's Mahatma Gandhi (1993) explores Gandhi's life and work,
Fd ~hikhu Parekh'~ Gandhi~ Politica~ Philosophy (1989) concentrates specifically Khatibi's work is not widely translated, but Maghreb pluriel (1983) is the key volume
pn his thought. Ashis Nandys The IntImate Enemy (1983) is the principal text for for an understanding of his thinking on postcolonialism. There is also little criticism
ptudy used here. Nandy has tended to be under-studied, but Young's Postcolonialism ofKhatibi in English, but Reda Bensmalas Experimental Nations, or, The Invention
j::ontains some commentary on his work. For more information on the Subaltern oj the Maghreb (2003) contains a chapter on Khatibi and multilingualism. Walter
~tudies Group, the best place to start is the journal Subaltern Studies. Ranajit Guha Mignolo champions Khatibi in Local Histories, Global Designs (2000). Glissant's
iJnd Gayatri Spivak's volume Selected Subaltern Studies (1988) provides a useful Caribbean Discourse (1989) and The Poetics oj Relation (1997c) are key theoretical
i:Jverview, and Guhas Dominance without Hegemony (1997) and Chakrabarty's Pro- texts by Glissant available in English. Celia Britton's Edouard Glissant and Post-
rincializing Europe (2000) expand on the journal's mission.
colonial Theory (1999) offers a sophisticated reading of his novels as well as his
theory, and J. Michael Dash provides an overview in Edouard Glissant (1995). Chris
Bongie's Islands and Exiles (1998) situates him in relation to Caribbean and Creole
four Foucault and Said: colonial discourse and Orientalism culture more broadly; and Peter Hallward offers a provocative critique of Glissant
in Absolutely Postcolonial (2001).
Relevant works by Michel Foucault include Madness and Civilisation (200la), The
~rchaeology oJKnowledge (2001b), Disclipline and Punish (1991) and PowerlKnow-
~edge (1980). Ann Laura Stoler's Race and the Education oj Desire (1995) is the seven Ethics with politics? Spivak, Mudimbe, Mbembe
?nly full volume devoted to the links between Foucault's thought and questions of
folonialism. Edward Said's volumes Orientalism (1995) and Culture and Imperial-
Spivak is a prolific writer, but a lot of her thinking is condensed in the volume A
jsm (1993) are his most frequently cited interventions into postcolonialism. Most Critique oJPostcolonialReason (1999). The famous essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?"
mtroductions to postcolonialism contain detailed commentary on Said, but good
~xamples include Young's White Mythologies and Bart Moore-Gilbert's Postcolonial
(1988) is also a useful place to start, and The Spivak Reader (1996c) contains many
key essays. Young's White Mythologies and Moore-Gilbert's Postcolonial Theory con-
theory (1997). There is also a useful collection edited by Michael Sprinker entitled
tain intelligent readings of Spivak, and more critical viewpoints can be found in
J?dward Said (1992). Bryan Turner's Orientalism, Postmodernism and Globalism
Benita Parry's Postcolonial Studies (2004) and in Aijaz Ahmad's In Theory (1992).
~1994) develops Said's thinking in the context of globalization.
Mark Sanders's Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (2006) is a clear, synoptic introduc-
! tion.
Key works by Mudimbe include The Invention ojAfrica (1988) and Parables and
five Derrida and Bhabha: self, other and postcolonial ethics Fables (1991). The best reading ofMudimbe can be found in Syrotinski's Singular
Performances (2002). Mbembe's important text is On the Postcolony (2001), and
Derridas OJGrammatology (1976) outlines his critique of ethnocentrism, while The there is a chapter on Mbeme in Syrotinski's Deconstruction and the PostcoloniaL
Monolingualism oj the Other (1998) contains specific commentary on colonialism
in Algeria Young has signalled the importance of postcolonialism to Derridean

190 understanding postcoionialism

further reading 191
eight Conclusion: neocoloniaJism and the future of the

The key work by Kwame Nkrumah on neocolonialism is Neo-colonialism (1965).

Young's Postcolonialism also contains summary of Nkrumah's career. Hardt and
Negri's provocative volume is Empire (2000), followed up by Multitude (2004). Both
: are long, detailed explorations of the authors' controversial theory. ArifDirlik's The
Postcolonial Aura (1997) offers a critique of the neocolonialism ofpostcolonial stud-
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I Williams, 1'. & 1. Chrisman (eds) 1993. Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. 70,137,138,147,170,176 Berque, J. 130-31,149
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Young, R. 1990. White MytholOgies: Writing History and the West. London: Routledge. political 12, 14,39,116,122,151,158 98-9,103,113-25,126,149,151,152,
Young, R. 1995. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, Race. London: Routledge. and the subject 82, 94, 103 174,178,181,184,190-91
Young, R. 2000. "Deconstruction and the Postcolonial". In Deconstruction: A User's GUide, ahimsa 62, 72 Bhagavad Gita 57,60,61,160
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Young, R. 2001. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Algeria 3,25-8,35-8,41-55,94,98-100, 141, 149, 188
103-7,112, l25, 131, 144, 151, 190 biopower 79, 181
Algerian War of Independence 25, 94, BoerWar 58
100,103 Bongie, C. 4, 148, 191
alienation bourgeoiSie 6,8-10,14,38,40,48,52,55,
and the blackman 26-30 61,7l
and the colonizer 44, 49 Britton,C. 27,149,191
and the Jew 105, 107, 125 Bronte, C. 160
andlanguage 50,104,128,132, 135
and Orientalism 87 Cabral, A. 40

index 199
198 understanding postcolonialism
calligraphy 128, 131, 133-4 Dirlik, A 15, 182, 183, 185, 192 Hardt, M. 180-82 Martinique 25,27,135-50,179
Camus, A 43, 94, 97 dispossession 50, 105-7, 138, 147 Hassoun, J. 135 marvellous realism 145
Capeda, M. 32 Hegel, G. W E 32,47,49,52, 101, 130, Marx, K 6-15,56,59,66, 69-7l, 88,130,
capitalism Eagleton, T. 10,162 146,159-60,175-6 152-60,163,177,186,188-9
and colonialism 2,3,5,8,9, 10, 14, 15, East India Company 7,8, 7l, 156, 161 Heidegger, M. 16,17,20,109 Marxism 6-15,23,24,152,177,180,182
24,54,70 equal rights 123 Hinduism 55, 57,60-63, 156, 175, 188, and Fanon 38, 52
European 44 exotidsm 88-9, 136, 183 190 and Khatibi 130
global 153,155,179,182,183 exotidzation 5 Huggan,G. 5,183-5,188 andMbembe 172
and modern dvilization 55,59,60 exploitation 3, 4, 6-15, 24, 44, 48, 49, 60, humanism 27,35,48,54,63-4,84,95,97, and Spivak 158
and postmodernism 161, 182 63,69,74,84, 98-9, 137, 152, 154, 112,117,124,123,131,184,187 and the Subaltern Studies Collective
struggle against 11, 27, 60 167,172,179-80 human rights 123-4, 140 75
i Caribbean 27,30,31,33,34,91,126,127, Egypt 85-7 hybridity 68, 119, 122, 125, 182, 191 masculinity 66-7
135-50,151,188,191 ethnidty 81, 17l Masolo, D. A 170
Caygill, H. 18, 189 ethnocentrism 22,81, 98,100-107,110, ideological state apparatus 13 Mbembe, A. 151,152, 17l-7, 178, 179,
Cesaire, A 15, 33, 94, 136-9 113, 115, 125, 130, 157, 166, 184, ideology 2,3,6-15,74-7,80-81,93,138, 180,188,191
Chakrabarty; D. 68-70,190 187,190 161,164,167,180,186 Meddeb, A 131-3
chaos-monde 146-7,150 India 3,7-8,12,14,24,54-75,76,88,91, Memmi, A 49, 63
I Chateaubriand 87-8 Fanon,F. 14,23,25-35,77,112,151,164, 93-8,119,156,159,161,187 metaphysics 16,17,20,22,52,98,99,
, Chatterjee, P- 54, 55, 57, 68, 69, 7l-3, 94, 183,186,189-90 industrialization 3, 8, 60 103,104,108,110,125,129,130,
: 187,190 and Bhabha 116, 118, 121, 123, 124 Islam 22, 58, 84, 87, 89, 95, 128, 129, 130, 131,135,149
i Chow,R 104 and Gandhi 54-7,61,63,64,68,74 133,134,134,149,151 metissage 140,144,145,147
, Coetzee, J. M. 161 and Glissant 139,144 Israel 21, 22, 89 migration 144,146,181
I colonial discourse 14,22,76-97,107, and Khatibi 129 Miller, C. 17l
113-25,135,157,161,175,184,187 andMbembe 175,176,178 James, c. L R 137 mimicry 41,118,119,157,172, 174, 176
! colonial ideology 24-6, 36-7, 40, 65-6, and Nandy 65-6 Jews 21,22,28,30,105-7 mission civilisatrice 9, 54, 87
I 100,101 and Said 84, 94, 96, 97, 98 Judaism 22,105-7 Moore-Gilbert, B. 122, 190, 191
! Comad, J- 92-4, 97 and Sartre 35-53 Morocco 41,127-35
creolite 139-41 femininity 67, 88 Khatibi, A 22,103,126-35,136,141,144, Mudimbe, V. Y. 23,151,152, 164-7l,
Critchley; S. 108,111-12 Flaubert, G. 85,87-9 149,150,188,191 172,175-8,180,184,188,191
Forster, E. M. 94,118 Rlpling,R. 67,93-4,97,118,161
Dash, J. M. 147 Koran 127-8,131,134 Naipaul, V. S. 118
: Deleuze, G. 82,143,155,156,169,182 Foucault, M. 14-15, 7l, 76-83, 84-6, Nandy, A 54,57,64-8, 69, 74, 89, 96,
I Derrida, J. 98-113,178,183,184,187, 89-92, 95, 97, 98, 116,124, 126, 128, Lacan,J. 14,27,114,117,119,132 187,190
188,190-91 130,152,155,156,164-7,176,187, Lamartine, A de 87-8 National Liberation Front 25
andBhabha 114,115,119,121,122, 190 Latin America 3,119,145,179 National Socialism 6, 15, 16, 112, 189
124-5 Fuss,D. 27 Lazarus, N. 6,15,27, 178, 189 Negri, A 180-82
and Foucault 82-3 Levinas, E. 6,15-23,24,28,35,140,184, negritude 28,33,34, 64, 136, 167, 186,
and Glissant 135-6,143,148,149 Gandhi,L 70 186, 189 190
and Khatibi 126-8, 130, 133 Gandhi, M. 54-64,98,112, 164, 176, 183, and Derrida 99,101,108-13,125,126, Sartre on 43-52
and Levinas 20-23 187,190 158 Nehru,J. 73
andMbembe 176-7 and Nandy 65-8 and Khatibi 131, 133, 135 Nerval, G. de 88
and Sartre 50-51 and the Subaltern Studies Collective and Glissant 140 non-violence 55,56-9,62
and Spivak 151-5,157,159,161-5, 69-72,74 and Mudimbe 166 North Africa 94,96, 129
I 170,173 gender 32,96,122,127,152,181,188 and passive resistance 61-2, 64
i Devi, M. 161 Gilroy, P- 182 and Said 77 ontology 16,17,20,28,35,43,95,109,
: dialectic 27,28,32, 34,44,46,47,49,51, Glissant, E. 22,126-7,135-50,151,178, Levi-Strauss, c. 22,44, 101, 102, 125, 164, 131
i 52,64,146,153,167,125 179,199,191 166,168 opacity 145,147,149
i Diaspora 22, 106 Gramsci, A 11-14,85,182,186 logocentrism 101,104,113,115,130 Ortiz,E 140
: Djebar, A. 96 Guattari, E 143, 155, 156, 169, 182 Louverture, T. 137 Orwell, G. 67, 118
,deconstruction 22, 52, 100, 103, 108, 112, Guha, R 12, 68-7l, 80, 95, 122, 123, 190
115,121,127, 130,149,151,161, Macey, D. 26-7,189 Palestine 22, 84, 95
170-72, 176, 178, 191 Haddour, A. 103 Maghreb 126-35,188,191 Parry; B. 6,23,34,103,121, 162, 178
departmentalization 138 Hall, S. 11-12 Mannoni, O. 31 passive resistance 56, 61, 62, 74
Descartes, R 83, 168 Hallward, P- 147-8,162-3,191 Mariategui, J. c. 179 Patrick, M. 111

200 understanding postcolonial ism index 201

South Africa 26, 58
1l l l l l l l l i~iji imiii~
39346 00961149 4
paz, O. 119 sovereignty 16-18,20,22, 104, 105, 112,
peasantry 12,14,39,40,48,68-9,73
Perse, S. J. 144 Spivak, G. 6,12,23,151-64,165,170,
poststructuralism 23,48, 95, 103, 113,
171, In, 176-80, 183-4, 188, 190,
I poetics of relation 137,140,141,142, 191
and Derrida 103,104
and Foucault 82,83
proletariat 6, 8-11, 14, 38
and the Subaltern Studies Collective
Quayson, A. 4, 189
Stoler, L A. 81 ,~
subaltern 12,76,68-75,82, 94-5, 136-7,
I race 12, 16, 33,44-5,47,51,63,65,81,
and Spivak 157-63
Rhys,J. 160 Subaltern Studies Collective 54, 57,
I Rich,A 123 68_75,76,77,90,98,152,156,184,
Rimbaud, A. 144
! Rosello, M. 21
surplus value 7,9, 15, 154
, Rousseau, j. J. 22, 101, 164, 168
swadeshi 63, 70
Rowlatt Bills 58 Swaraj 55,56,58,60,62-4,71, 187, 190
Syrotinski, M. 163,178,191
Said, E. 19,76,77,81,82, 83-97, 98, 1.51,
andBhabha 114,118,124,125 Taylor, C. 123
Thiong'o, N. W. 65
and Mudimbe 164, 165
Todorov, T. 135
Salih, T. 94 totalitarianism 15, 16,23,24,28,67,99,
San Juan Jr, E. 14-15
Sartre, J-P. 14, 25, 28, 43-53, 54, 63,65,
66, 77, 84, 97, 98, 105, 112, 124, 151, transculturation 3, 140
use value 153
and Fanon 30, 32, 38
andMudimbe 167-8
Vichy 100, 105
sati 156-9 virility 34,66,174
satyagraha 58, 61, 62, 64, 74, 187
Scott, D. 105 Young, R 6, 8, 9, 29, 64, 82, 91, 103,121,
Segalen, V. 128, 132, 144
Senghor, L S. 33,43, 167, 169
sexuality 67,74,78, 80-81, 96, 97
Shelley, M. 160-61
ZiZek, S. 182

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202 understanding postcolonialism